Japanese firms compete to hire Korean retirees

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Japanese firms compete to hire Korean retirees


Japanese companies are hiring more older Koreans, extending their reach beyond the younger generations as they continue to struggle to find workers amid an economic boom in the country.

According to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), six Japanese companies are attending a job fair in Korea later this month where they will be able to recruit middle-aged job seekers. This will be the first time that foreign companies have attended the fair, which is in its eighth year.

“We decided to knock on the door of the Japanese companies thinking that many of them may be looking for workers as they try to expand into the global market,” said an official from the trade association. “Our initial goal was to recruit one or two companies but the number of companies that showed an interest far exceeded our initial expectations.”

The fair in the past focused on hiring older workers that can help Korean companies strengthen their overseas operations and sales. Last year, 50 Korean companies attended the fair and hired 170 workers - most of them in management positions in marketing, logistics and trade.

Japanese companies are turning their eyes to Korea due to difficulties in finding more experienced workers that can handle management roles, are capable of speaking foreign languages and proficient in the use of information technology-related equipment.

The firms attending the fair are expected to show an interest in job seekers with international sales and marketing experience for this reason.

“Most companies made announcements that they will be looking for workers in management as well as the sales and IT sectors,” said Kim Jung-cheol, an official at the on-site trade support department of KITA. “Any retired [Koreans] who can speak English and handle computers deftly are a competitive workforce in Japan as well.”

Japanese companies have been hiring a growing number of middle-aged job seekers, often allowing them to work past the retirement age. According to a study by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan in 2017, about 30,000 companies out of some 150,000 surveyed have either abolished compulsory retirement or set the retirement age at over 65 years of age, about 2,000 more companies compared to the previous year.

The data shows that the unemployment rate for Japanese people older than 65 fell from 2.0 percent in 2015 to 1.8 percent last year. The unemployment rate of those in between the ages of 55 and 64 fell from 3.1 percent to 2.7 percent during the same period.

“The unemployment rate at 1.8 percent means near full employment,” explained an official from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency’s office in Tokyo. “Competition among Japanese companies to secure older workers is getting fierce.”

With Japan experiencing a shortage of older workers and Korea suffering from a rising unemployment rate for those older than 60 years of age, experts are calling for support in matching Korean workers with Japanese companies. While there are some policies and projects in place that support Korean job seekers looking to find work in Japan, many of them have age limits that disqualify older workers.

Japanese companies are already eyeing skilled Koreans workers.

About 44.2 percent of Korean workers in Japan are considered tech workers.

“Korean workers are very attractive [from the perspective of Japanese companies],” said a spokesperson from one of the Japanese companies attending the fair. “We need more structured policies so that the two countries can exchange workforces.”

BY LEE KEUN-PYUNG [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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