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SDF recruiters struggle as applicant pool dries up

56 Comments
By Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki

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But there are also scenes showing how tough it is and I don't think many want to join. They want to do other things."

Key point, like anywhere, kids dont want to do the "hard" thing, and if they have options, why the hell should they.

The JSDF needs to sell itself better, as a career option. Not to mention that Japanese kids need to be taught more respect for their country and it's institutions. It's not just about money!

4 ( +13 / -9 )

What about a part time commitment (e.g Reserves) to give potential recruits a taste of the full time life? That way people can still work/study at the same time.

I certainly enjoyed it when I did mine, made a few friends and learnt some skills.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Why join and do a job that leads to harm and being harmed?

Japanese youth are not stupid....

0 ( +15 / -15 )

Those leaflets have got to go. As a Vet, I've got to say that those leaflets are childish and misleading. The girl in a sailor uniform is ridiculous and an embarrassment the the men and women of the SDF who face tough times to defend their country.

17 ( +20 / -3 )

Japan's 'robust economy' ?!

Their SDF recruitment campaigns should focus on their valuable role when natural disasters occur, which is something that Japan and the soldiers themselves can be proud of, rather than cute manga characters.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

It could be that young Japanese are unsure of what exactly is the purpose of the SDF. Because of the Constitution it is not an army in the true sense so that they would not be learning the traditional practical skills of the soldier. Learning about flower arrangement or cake decoration could well be what they are

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

If Hiroki Hashimoto's opinion is taken to heart by the bigwigs, recruiting aggressively in the districts where unemployment is high might result in more applicants. Emphasize that when one enlists, one will learn a trade while getting paid and serving/protecting Japan. Skills that will pay off even when leaving the military for civilian life. The saying is tech skills may get you an interview but soft skills will land you the job.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

But there are also scenes showing how tough it is and I don't think many want to join. They want to do other things."

Why don't they try to recruit from the Uyoku Dantai. There supposed to be over 1,000 right-wing groups in Japan with about 100,000 members in total.

Let's see if those nationalists REALLY LOVE their country as they claim to. Let them work for a living for a change.

Their SDF recruitment campaigns should focus on their valuable role when natural disasters occur, which is something that Japan and the soldiers themselves can be proud of, rather than cute manga characters.

Good point! Funny after the earthquake in 2011, I didn't see ANY Uyoku volunteering. NONE.

14 ( +19 / -5 )

Abe's attempt to put clear justification in the constitution about the existence and roles of SDF, if successful, will help attract more applicants in the long run. For long time, SDF has been a shadowy existence in Japanese society. Many still hesitate to say they are members of SDF.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

I don’t understand why would anyone want to do a job where there’s a risk of life. Afterall lefe is the most important thing no matter how well paid the job is. Not necessarily SDF people get paid well.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Aly Rustom

Every other post you make is in reference to nationalists and Nippon Kaigai. Why do you have so much contact with them? Why do you think about em everyday? I think they are a much smaller segment of society than you have got them up to be in your mind.

Moderator: Readers, please stay on topic. Nippon Kaigi is not relevant to this particular story.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Robust economy? Graduating to a menial job paying minimum wage, that equals a robust economy? I'm afraid a lot of Japanese youth are just not cut out for the military, and that is why I really think they need it even more. I still think the Korean style of two years military service is a great tool to train and help young people. But that will never happen here.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It is a bit odd to frame this as an SDF problem when the underlying cause of their recruitment troubles is demographic decline, someting completely unrelated to and out of the control of the SDF.

The only way of resolving this is to increase the birthrate, and even that will take twenty years to have any effect.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What about a part time commitment (e.g Reserves) to give potential recruits a taste of the full time life? That way people can still work/study at the same time.

Defending your Nation is NEVER a part time job. It is 24/7, ready to fight at minutes notice. If I were 20 years younger I would join up. I would take a license to fly helicopters, transport planes and ospreys. Then after 10 years service, I would join JAL as a senior pilot using my experience. Joining Japanese Military is a great career choice for young people, there should be more recruiters in the Government high schools.

-20 ( +10 / -30 )

I think Japan's military has a reputation for bullying. Who would want to voluntarily sign up for that?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Correction

fast growing Soka Gakkai insted of fast owing Soka Gakkai

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Amid a rock-bottom birth rate, the number of Japanese age 18 to 26 - the core of the recruitment pool - has shrunk to 11 million from 17 million in 1994. That group is forecast to shrink to 7.8 million over the next 30 years.

This is the eal ‘silent crisis’ for Japan. I really don’t believe a they fully understand the ramifications of a drop over 50% in youth over the next few decades. This is a huge disaster for Japan and not just to fill the ranks of the JSDF. The first problem will be in education. The private schools (nursery to university) are huge business in Japan, but they will lose over half of their students putting thousands of teacher out of work and possibly resulting in the closure of many private schools. Then there is indoctrination. process of employment from universities. There will not be enough applicants for jobs and any mullet that can hold a pencil will be employed. There is no way foreign workers can go through this process. Therefore, unless Japan makes major changes to the indoctrination process in the next few years it is going be spell disaster for Japan.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

"Many people join the SDF or attend its technical high school because they are poor. That is a fact," said Hashimoto, who did not enlist.

Same as the West. Military recruiters tend to target low socioeconomic status kids, living in poor/isolated areas i.e. the countryside etc. Tough job selling the army as an attractive career to cashed up/city students dreaming of prestigious uni, $, law/medicine/political/biz careers etc. And let's be honest, not too many teens want to live/work 24/7 in a male-only environment.

'Dunno what to do with my life' kids are a much easier, more gullible/impressionable target.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I'd love to see them come talk to my grandson who at 14 has decided to quit school and dreams of becoming a hairstylist, without even finishing Junior High

18 ( +18 / -0 )

With Abe pushing to change the constitution, joining the SDF might could include combat.

Pffft...

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Long time ago, Japan's defense minister visited Misawa AB in Aomori where the base was and is used jointly by SDF and U.S. Air Force. The defense minister was very angry after inspecting the facilities of U.S. AF and SDF at Misawa. Because he found the facilities for U.S. Air Forces were very fine and spacious while the facilities and housings for SDF was poor and shabby. Both facilities were built by Japan. Even today the situation may be the same. So, if any Japanese youngster visit the Misawa Base, they will feel the same way as the defense minister and will not join SDF.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Allow women in combat roles and raise the enlisting age to 55. Disqualification based on age and gender is an outdated modus operandi in this day and age.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Maybe Japan needs to hire contracters. Foreigners with military knowledge. Like they do in France with legioners. I would like to be instructor in military again. I was in Israeli special forces seargent rank.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

My two cents, like many have said, drop the kawaii anime crap to sell the JDSF. Make it a career option. Make it a future. Make it a choice for those who don't know what to do with their lives or for those that want to be part of something they can be proud in. Also I think its also a changing culture. Much of Asia, Korea and Japan are moving away from tough guy macho idea of what a man is. We are moving into times where make up for guys is quickly becoming norm and a more androgynous society. Good or bad, or if think that that is weird or fine, it doesn't matter, its happening. So, IMO, its a big hard to sell a big hard tough military life to an androgynous culture where boys are more likely to wear concealer.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Abe's attempt to put clear justification in the constitution about the existence and roles of SDF, if successful, will help attract more applicants in the long run. For long time, SDF has been a shadowy existence in Japanese society. Many still hesitate to say they are members of SDF.

Sure, when Abe decides to invade a country after the constitution is changed the popularity of the SDF will just skyrocket. Parents want their kids in harm way. No, Japan should do what the USA military does and allow recruits with jail and/or with drug records to join. It is a big part of the overall USA recruiting. Some come directly from prison. SDF could recruit at prisons in Japan.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Defending your Nation is NEVER a part time job. It is 24/7, ready to fight at minutes notice. If I were 20 years younger I would join up. I would take a license to fly helicopters, transport planes and ospreys. Then after 10 years service, I would join JAL as a senior pilot using my experience. Joining Japanese Military is a great career choice for young people, there should be more recruiters in the Government high schools.

Uh, seriously? The majority of military personnel in most countries are reservists who do it part time. Being in the military full time is usually the exception rather than the norm. Most countries maintain a cadre of full time professionals with a larger cohort of reserve personnel who can be called up in wartime simply because that is the most sensible way of allocating resources.

I spent four years as an army reservist myself. Great way to pay for university back home, not sure if Japan has the same system in the SDF though.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

There is a tried and tested way to solve any manpower shortage: pay more.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The next time China or North Korea or Russia projects their military power in the vicinity of Senkaku Island, Okinawa or anywhere near mainland Japan, you'll all be screaming "Where is the SDF and why aren't they doing anything?!" Have you forgotten the North Korean missile firings over Japan and North Korea's threats to "sink Japan"?

Combined with the unwillingness to support modifying Article 9 to allow a more capable Japanese military force, a lack of interest among young people joining the SDF and the anti-military attitudes here, it appears the Japanese people are not willing to take a more active role in defending their own country, but wants to continue to rely and depend on the U.S. to protect them.

You'll never get the U.S. military personnel and U.S. bases out of mainland Japan and Okinawa.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

As a parent with a son who have just ended his SDF stint, just can't help but be amazed with the info from "knowledgeable" posters. I know for sure that SDF aren't wanting in applicants.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

HalwickToday 12:24 pm JST

The next time China or North Korea or Russia projects their military power in the vicinity of Senkaku Island, Okinawa or anywhere near mainland Japan, you'll all be screaming "Where is the SDF and why aren't they doing anything?!"

No I won't, because the SDF will actually be where they're needed and able to do something.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

They didn't forsee this? You have an ever-decreasing population where businesses are having difficulty getting fully staffed without the help of foreigners.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

GI Bill?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I spent four years as an army reservist myself. Great way to pay for university back home, not sure if Japan has the same system in the SDF though.

The SDF has a similar but not same sort of reservist system.

Most reserves are called up to do base security and rear area (non-combat/frontline) operations when regular units are deployed (as seen during 3/11).

Some reserves are nurses, doctors, foreign language specialists, lawyers, IT experts, and other specialized field experts.

If one has served more than two years, he/she is given the option of being a “Ready Reserve” who are paid more, but have higher training requirements.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If the Japanese SDF ran a TV advert like they have here in the UK they would get more recruits, lets face it a manga type picture of a girl on a leaflet, come on, its rubbish, who ever thought of that? here a link to a UK British arm recruiting advert, now that would inspire some one to join. https://youtu.be/0MAhMVCp9vM

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Who would want to go and get killed or maimed for America and Abe’s Meiji ambitions?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I served in military, like so many in my family before me. It was a great decision on my part to serve my country. I am happy i did and met many great people in my travels. I also learned alot about other cultures and countries. Yes the money is not great but there is much more to be gain then just money. These young men and women are needed in Japan for SDF or Japan faces a very really threat from other countries who are not friends of Japan. It only takes 1 generation of people to lose it all and then everyone suffers....

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Most reserves are called up to do base security and rear area (non-combat/frontline) operations when regular units are deployed (as seen during 3/11).

Interesting. That is significantly different from other countries where reservists are basically trained to the same standard as regular force members and then used interchangeably with them when called up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

High time time they recruited foreigners in their military.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Most reserves are called up to do base security and rear area (non-combat/frontline) operations when regular units are deployed (as seen during 3/11).

Interesting. That is significantly different from other countries where reservists are basically trained to the same standard as regular force members and then used interchangeably with them when called up.

The “Ready Reserves” I mentioned earlier take part in frontline operations and participate in field training exercises with regular combat units.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Surprised no one has mentioned the obvious: reduce the size of the military.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

12 months national service. All countries should have it.

Military service OR

Community service OR

Environmental service.

3 options.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As a veteran I can speak from experience. Reading through the comments I see a lot of ignorance and political prejudice from different veiw points. Although I served in a combat role, there are many wonderful non-combat occupational speacialties with skills that transfer to civilian life. The medical field is just one, with high paying jobs and a bright future. I joined for the adventure and travel. No disappointment there. Made lifetime friends and memories that are far and few between in civilian life. And people DO join for love of country, than for no other reason, believe it, or not. It is true, many join that are from poor and depressed socioeconomic backgrounds but grasp the opportunity to escape that life by joining the military. It is what you make of it and it is not for everyone. As far as Japan and the ever declining birthrate... what this article does not mention is the accelerated advancement of robotics, especially in the healthcare sector but also military. Anyone who kees up on defense news knows that AI and robotics is the future. Its what every nation is pouring billions of dollars into. In ten to twenty years its going to be computers, drones and robots fighting. Just follow the money. Todays big tech is tomorrows global military titan. My prediction is China and India will dominate. Because we taught them all how to do it with H1B1 Visas in Silicon Valley. Now their going home and building their own militarized versions and were not because of pink pussy hat wearing PC liberals. There would not be a silicon valley if not for H1B1 visa’s. Our college educational system is so screwed up and people's stupidity so deep its breathtaking.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is good news. Even if Abe subverts the Constitution by dumping or changing Article 9 he and his right-wing friends will not be able to wage a sustained war. I am think of being used by the U.S. to fight in the Middle East or somewhere else.

The demographics is worse than it appears.

A military requires a solid civilian industrial base, where there are shortages that will invariably get worse.

Also is the Japanese government goes to war, you must elect SDF personnel to get killed. This is something Japan cannot afford for very long.

In the coming years youths will become pandas, rare beings to be protected from harm.

The Japanese have become pacifist as a nation in way they themselves are not aware.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If Japan is having a hard time filling it's needs for military personnel... Japan had better foster a shooting culture and a well armed people.

The Chinese empire is in the expansion phase and is right next door.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Raise SDF salaries (¥3 million starting off enlisted / ¥6 million per year for officer or university grads) plus housing and food allowances pegged to local CPI. This is what the US military does. Give more time off compared to corporate world (30 hours per week with mandatory 45 holiday days off per year in addition to 3-day weekends). Obviously rotate the schedules so all shifts are covered.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Matt Hartwell:

Since the SDF is not an official military, conscription is likely unconstitutional. Civil service of some kind, however, should be allowed (e.g. highway cleanup, rebuilding parks).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japanese young are either lazy or scared (or both) to make a commitment. I spent twenty years between Okinawa and Japan and have been married to a Japanese lady for 38 years. I watched her sisters kids grow up to be self absorbed brats that expect things to be provided without effort. Japan is in trouble, the old work ethic is all but gone.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hey I'll take a leaflet/poster flyer as souvenir. Can you ship some to US and Australia?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Japanese young are either lazy or scared (or both) to make a commitment.

People have been saying this about the young in pretty much every country, with every generation, forever.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Chances of Japan going to war have spiked under Prime Minister Abe.

Previously, the SDF career was a search and rescue job in disaster affected area.

Today, Japan is likely to go to war with its neighbors under Abe, and Japanese youth aren't stupid. They know they would end up dodging bullets and take covers when bomb drops if they sign up now.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Halwick

The next time China or North Korea or Russia projects their military power in the vicinity of Senkaku Island, Okinawa or anywhere near mainland Japan,

The only place where Japan is in defensive position is the Diaoyu Islands.

Japanese rightwingers are talking about invading the Kurils and North Korea to take Russian held islands and rescue Japanese "hostages".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

time to invest in drones and terminators.  Why send a person to do a robot's job :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That is unfortunate that Japanese youth do not want to defend their country by joining the SDF or any governmental organization. They think that the USA will always defend them but the reality is that when the poop hits the fan, they will be the first responders that need to take action in an emergency and not sit on their hands waiting for some other country to come to the rescue. My two sons are serving in the US military and my youngest is serving in Japan defending his birthplace against China, North Korea and Russia intentions to take over that arena. I do not know what the SDF are offering but my eldest son received a 3 year college education and earned a bachelors degree, free medical care to the present and a job in the air force reserve for having 6 years of active duty assignments and it has paid off well. Maybe Japan if they have not done so already should promote the same benefits to entice young people to join and support their country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We'll probably see a softening in the training and effectiveness of the SDF to attract young people.

Talk to any manager in Japan and you'll hear stories of employees mommys calling the company to complain about the strict boss or other aspects of their precious darlings working conditions. Times have changed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Twenty years from now, unless we can replace a considerable number of people with robots, it'll be hard to maintain the current level of war capability

Mr Nagashima either hasn't read, or doesn't understand, Japan's constitution. Part of Article 9 reads "... land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained."

It's a pity that such illiterate halfwits with no respect for the law are elected to the Diet.

The solution to labour shortages is to raise wages, or lower the bar for entry. Creating cute manga characters will have negligible effect.

If I were 20 years younger I would join up. I would take a license to fly helicopters, transport planes and ospreys. Then after 10 years service, I would join JAL as a senior pilot using my experience

When you join up you do as you are told, regardless of what you want to do. It's more likely you would spend your ten years digging ditches, being shouted at for not having shiny enough boots, and marching up and down in the rain. Then you could leave and be a security guard on minimum wage.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@zurcronium

No, Japan should do what the USA military does and allow recruits with jail and/or with drug records to join. It is a big part of the overall USA recruiting. Some come directly from prison.

As a veteran living in the US right now, I have to tell you this is just completely false.

Occasionally when recruiting numbers are low, some services will allow waivers for certain individuals with criminal records, but it is not common and definitely not a 'big part of overall USA recruiting', and they would never recruit anyone directly from a prison.

They just announced that the US military missed its recruiting goals this year by something like 10% and are just now implementing some waivers to get those numbers up, but it is not something that they do regularly and when numbers are good, you can't even join without a high school diploma, let alone a prison record.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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