Japan Today

Voices
in
Japan

have your say

With only 123 PhD graduates per million people, Japan is the only major economy experiencing a continuous decline in the number, according to the education ministry. Why do you think this is?

33 Comments

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

33 Comments
Login to comment

Last time I checked, wanting to be a YouTuber didn't require a PhD.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Lack of support for scientific research, low level of Japanese universities compared with those in other countries means people with an interest in science will rarely come from overseas while the nationals will find much better chances outside the country. What is the point of sacrificing nights and weekends if the only positions available are for limited time contracts and funding scarce?

2 ( +9 / -7 )

In my own experience, having bachelor's degree or master's degree is enough to secure decent paycheck at most 'white' corporations here , PHD or professor is another 5-6 years after bachelor's degree(there's a lot of process to go through getting those scholarships, competing with others), you'll have to really love school, committed or wanting to be the expert of the field you're interested in doing research in.

Needing to make money and not a die hard fan of research, I just want to quickly pay off my mortgage, retire early to enjoy doing what I want, see the kids grow up and have kids of their own. People have more choices and options of their own of what path they want to take in life.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

They know there are not many jobs afterwards in companies or teaching. Companies want 22 year old newbies to mold.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

A uni education is becoming very expensive. If you don't need it for a nailed-on career (medicine or law), it isn't as attractive an option as it used to be. The numbers are going to decline globally for first and higher degrees. Western unis are also losing foreign (esp. Chinese) students to government blocks. These were subsidising their courses for domestic students, so their economic models are collapsing. At the same time, governments are prioritising STEM subjects, reducing general funding. UK universities are cutting courses all over the place, especially languages and humanities.

From personal experience, you have fewer options with a PhD than without. Most employers will consider you overqualified and be suspicious as to why you are not looking for a job in academia. Jobs in the academic world are vanishing, as most are subsidised. Even tech is pulling funding as more of it is restricted.

Expect unis to contract globally for some years to come. Expansion will only happen in areas with state subsidy, and the state will only fund certain courses, chasing high profile trends like AI and climate change, regardless of inherent value.

The only benefit in all this may be the eventual reform of the academic year, creating cheaper, shorter courses that operate on a working week, rather than a term basis.

So in terms of PhDs, numerically, Japan is just leading the pack. It's graduates are facing the unpleasant realities of life today, and finding ways to survive. The RotW will copy them.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can understand it. Unless they want to be university professors there is really no reason for getting one. In most other countries phd graduates can get a good job with a good pay, but in Japan companies prefer 22 year old with little knowledge who they can mold themselves.

And on top of that it is quite expensive to get one.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Knowledge does not have to be instrumental. It can be pursued for its own sake. If you love learning enough you will be happy in your life without the trappings of consumerism. But the education system until university destroys curiosity and learning for its own sake. University education totally trivialises university. The awareness of the possibility of further education is limited. The professors who might supervise your PhD are not people you can imagine spending much time with when you have spent your university life avoiding them or distancing yourself socially from them.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Too expensive from entering a university to leaving with your PhD.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

There are only 123 PhDs per million people in Japan? In a nation of over 120 million, 15,000 in total?

Or is that the number of new PhDs granted per year?

Even that latter number seems really small.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are mainly two reasons:

1) In US, most of Europe, even China, PhD students receive a salary. In Japan, only a low percent of the graduate students receive some form of financial support, while they also have to pay tuition.

2) Japanese companies don't give incentives for PhD degrees, so also taking 1) into consideration, it is more economically sound to search for a with a bachelor or masters' degree. Not to talk about humanities, where there are few jobs for a PhD.

Things are (slowly) changing though, the number of fellowships and RA opportunities for PhD students is increasing, and Japanese companies have also started rewarding more a PhD degree.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What's the point in Japan? Your salary will still be rubbish, even with a PhD.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

The number of doctoral degree holders in Japan peaked at 17,860 in 2006 and has been on a downward trend since then, falling to 15,128 in 2019.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, most countries are overproducing PhDs. Compared to the US, it's quite easy to find a permanent (tenured) job as a PhD holder here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Time and expense for what? What jobs out there really require a PhD? University professor? For every academic position advertised, there will be over 100 applicants - most of them excellent, even for low level universities. There are too many PhDs! Japan's universities are doing the right thing by getting most of their students out of their bachelors or masters courses and into the workplace. A handful of PhDs from the top universities is plenty until such a time as the job market demands otherwise.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

When I was in grad school in California, in the same on campus housing was a religious studies PhD student who was about 37 years old, never worked a day in his life as far as I could tell. His Japanese wife was always complaining about him. It was hilarious. She finally started working part time. I respect that guy, only person I ever saw who could get a Japanese housewife to work.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Compared to the US, it's quite easy to find a permanent (tenured) job as a PhD holder here.

That is not what the Japanese that emigrate to the US to actually make a living from their degrees think, even chiefs of department in laboratories of universities are only on 5 year contracts, associate or assistant professors, postdocs, etc. have a hard time even reaching that level, tenure is a dream beyond a dream for the vast majority.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

One reason may be the overall drop in the number of younger people in the population. I understand that in 1971 there were 19.7 million people aged 15-24. In 2020, the number was 11.7 million.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I guess it depends on the field. But here you can find many positions (even for Assistant Professors) that grant tenure at the time of hiring. This is almost never done in the US. I went through basically no review to get tenure. Salary is lower than similar positions in the US though.

That is not what the Japanese that emigrate to the US to actually make a living from their degrees think, even chiefs of department in laboratories of universities are only on 5 year contracts, associate or assistant professors, postdocs, etc. have a hard time even reaching that level, tenure is a dream beyond a dream for the vast majority.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many reasons. First there are not enough lesson hours in school from elementary to high school.

second, kids are to tired by long travel too and from school to absorb much of the teaching

third , learning 3 Japanese alphabets takes too much unnecessary time.

four, the teachers themselves are mediocre.

the general intellect of Japanese is lower as any comparative study would show.

the general level of knowledge of a high school student when entering university is low and not much higher after the bachelor degree.

and PhD’s are much more difficult to get abroad, so, quite a number of those obtaining them in Japan would fail to do so outside of Japan

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

This is for sure, bit it doesn't explain why there are fewer PhDs.

and PhD’s are much more difficult to get abroad, so, quite a number of those obtaining them in Japan would fail to do so outside of Japan

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My friend with a Ph.D. finally got a tenured position in Japan. It seems there is a huge expectation to do admin work, have faculty meetings and other tasks beyond research and teaching.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Perhaps a little more information in the system and field of study could have been helpful!

Take Canada as an example in 2002 only about 3,300 PhD graduates, today it is near 10,000 but jobs in the fields they graduates in are not available!

Today the number of those graduating in science/medical/business are now being out numbered by those in humanities and social whatever!

The science/medical/business tend to actually find jobs in their field of study.

But recent studies show that those in humanities etc...rately do and will earn considerably less than those in the science etc. Fields!

The number of women getting PhDs has increased to the point that women make up the major of PhD graduates, but they also mostly graduate in the fields of humanities sociology etc...which leads to few jobs and low pay.

Most non science or business PhD graduates are looking for work in The academic field and despite the number if graduates increasing by 3 fold, the number of academia jogs hasn't changed since 2007.

So the question isn't why Japan hasn't increased like other countries, it is why the other countries are turning out so many PhD graduates in fields that don't lead to jobs and low paying jobs!

If Japan is turning out enough PhDs for business, medical and science the rest don't really matter!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Another good reason is that at the cost of university in Japan, most parents are not going to spend the extras money for their kid to get s PhD in philosophy or humanities and not get a good paying job that would justify the extra cost!

A parent looks at it like this:

Kid wants to get a PhD in AI science, pharmaceuticals, medical, they see jobs available, higher pay good companies.

So agree!

A parent whose child says they want to get a PhD in social science, humanities, philosophy etc...the parents look and see no jobs, low pay etc....

The reaction is forget it kid, if you want to waste your money go ahead but don't expect us to pay!

A job for someone with a PhD in work place diversity or someone with just a Batchelor in work place diversity pays exactly the same in Japan and most other countries so why waste time and money!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Too expensive from entering a university to leaving with your PhD.

I have a "friend" who got his PhD certificate from a small shop on Khao San Road in Bangkok and taught at University in Japan for many years. Hopefully that would not be possible now.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In the Times World University Rankings 2023, Todai was ranked 39th. Respectable enough, but it ain't no Harvard or Oxford. Keio was 801-1000 and Waseda 1001-1200. These universities are only prestigious in Japan.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I have a "friend" who got his PhD certificate from a small shop on Khao San Road in Bangkok and taught at University in Japan for many years

You have reminded me of some of the eikaiwa schools I worked in when I first landed on these shores back in the early 80s. You only needed to photocopy a university diploma, add your name, and copy it again. I remember a Polish guy who got a job that way.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

But here you can find many positions (even for Assistant Professors) that grant tenure at the time of hiring.

For example? big universities like Tokyo U, Kyoto, Keiyo, etc. don't do it at least for scientific fields, even national institutions (that were traditional places where employees got permanent positions) have gradually been transformed into different kinds of institutions by fusing it with related public institutions and in the process stop giving permanency to the PhDs that work there.

My friend with a Ph.D. finally got a tenured position in Japan. It seems there is a huge expectation to do admin work, have faculty meetings and other tasks beyond research and teaching.

That is also true overseas (to different degrees depending on the country) but still more positions are available, it is not rare in Japan to find universities (specially small or local ones) that have huge number of students by class with only one PhD in charge, which means 100% of the administrative work is also done by this person. In extreme cases people without a PhD ends up in charge "temporarily" which makes absolutely no sense for postgraduate courses.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, in what fields or areas of research do those 123 per million hold their PhDs?

Isn't that what really matters?

In the U.S. and other Western countries, a lot of people hold PhDs in, frankly, some of the silliest and most worthless things imaginable.

Just to name a few:

1) Puppetry

2) Folklore

3) Packaging

4) Personality

5) Fishing

6) Pop Art

7) Foresight

8) Storytelling

9) Culinary Arts (why does one need a PhD in cooking?)

10) Art History

11) Fashion Design (good grief, why spend over $100,000 for a doctorate in how to make clothes?)

12) Anything with "Studies" in the name (Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, Women's Studies ... )

And even PhDs in more "practical" fields don't always mean much in the real world.

One article I found said that "business leaders often complain about the lack of skills of PhD students." Probably because they live in a world of academic theory, which doesn't always transition well into real-world practice.

Even getting a bachelor's degree, let alone a PhD, isn't really needed for most jobs in Japan or the West. In the U.S., people are slowly but increasingly coming to the conclusion that for pursuing a future in most career fields, college is a scam -- a waste of time and money.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

In the U.S. and other Western countries, a lot of people hold PhDs in, frankly, some of the silliest and most worthless things imaginable.

Why discourage expertise in any field? Why shouldn't people be encouraged to master 'worthless' things such as fishing, cooking or ?

What's your Phd in and what should they be restricted to?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

PHD are professional students

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Quo PrimumApr. 6 09:07 pm JST

In the U.S. and other Western countries, a lot of people hold PhDs in, frankly, some of the silliest and most worthless things imaginable.

10) Art History

I'm sorry History and Art offend you. They are the only things keeping us from destroying the world in a fit of uncivilized rage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Quo PrimumApr. 6 09:07 pm JST

In the U.S., people are slowly but increasingly coming to the conclusion that for pursuing a future in most career fields, college is a scam -- a waste of time and money.

Most career fields require a bachelor's degree. This is indisputable.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

grad students are used (gratis) in western schools to write sections of textbooks that others profit from.

used to write grant applications since the university gets a kicker from 15% to 50% of the grant. the grants and fields are predominately useless and government handouts. the students make up an idea and the university and advisors get their names on papers.

the more grants you get, the more grants you’ll get. it’s a racket.

the really important forward thinking topics and fields don’t get the grants because the people awarding the grants are fossils who don’t grasp the importance.

it’s like movies and television. same old remakes of the same old plots that were hits long ago.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites