Engineering which was once the most popular profession in Japan and had thousands of aspirants waiting to be an engineer, has lost its charm, creating a void.
Japan is witnessing lack of interest from young people in joining the engineering and technology related fields.
This decline has grown so drastic that the industry has begun campaigns adverting engineering and showing it in all its glory as interesting and cool.
Once upon a time, their skill in engineering is what brought Japan to this level, giving it the distinction of being called the “super power” of the engineering and technology fields.
The American influence is being witnessed in the way youngsters in Japan think. Just as young people in America choose professions that pay better, in fields such as medicine, finance or other creative fields like the arts, rather than following in their fathers’ footsteps of becoming a salaried engineer working in a big manufacturing firm, Japanese youngsters too are steering towards the more glamorous and high-paying fields.
In fact, this problem does not come as a shock to Japan, as the first signs of declining interest in the fields of science and engineering showed up almost two decades ago, when Japan reached the living standards of the first-world. It just got worse from there onwards and the decline is more obvious now more than ever.
Japanese companies that were always confident that things would not reach this level are now feeling the pinch. According to an estimate by the ministry of internal affairs, the digital technology industry in Japan is already half a million engineers short.
These big companies lure the engineers in Japan with fat pay packets and huge sign-up bonuses, a cut-throat practice that was never heard of before in Japan’s capitalistic set up.
Analysts feel that the problem has a huge potential to worsen, keeping in mind that Japan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.
A professor of business at Keio University, Kazuhiro Asakawa stated that “Japan is sitting on a demographic time bomb. An explosion is going to take place. They see it coming, but no one is doing enough about it.”
This shortage of engineers is causing anxiety about Japan’s competitiveness. In comparison, currently China is said to turnout around 400,000 engineers each year.
In an attempt not to fall prey to all these doomsday predictions, Japan has been doing everything it can, to entice the younger generation back into the fields of science and engineering.
In the meantime, to tide over the crisis of immediate needs, Japan has started recruiting engineers from other countries, but it does not reach the numbers the country needs. Experts believe that the reason why even foreign engineers do not show interest in Japan is because of Japan’s closed corporate culture and language, which creates huge barriers and most engineers refuse to come to Japan.
Many top Japanese companies are either importing engineers or outsourcing their research jobs to technically sound countries like India, where the field of engineering is thriving with highly qualified engineers.
Experts feel that these belated efforts may not be able to fix this deep-rooted problem but hope remains that Japan will be able to turnaround the situation.