I see a number of comments from educators or English teachers, which misses the point, as the article is clearly written with a focus on working in business, particularly with foreign capital firms operating in Japan. As a manager in a global firm operating in Tokyo, I have to agree with most of what Mr. Wahl has said. In particular, for foreigners trying to break the rice paper ceiling and actually secure rewarding work in Tokyo, a contract is an excellent way to enter a firm. A firm can take a lot more risk on a candidate if that person is coming in on a contract, and that gives the candidate a chance to prove themselves on the job. Virtually all of the folks we hire on contract end up in permanent roles with us.
Looking more broadly, the foreign working population in Japan is not statistically significant compared to the entire workforce. This begs the question of whether or not the five myths outlined in the article apply to the broader group--in fact, we're seeing a radical shift in how Japanese people work, with the end of lifetime employment and an explosion in the recruitment industry (remember how many recruitment ads where not on the subway cars 5 years ago?). It will be interesting to see how things develop but given the economic fundamentals the labor force must become more flexible and adaptable, and contract employment may allow both firms and employees to survive in the evolving times ahead.
A recruitment firm, wether permanent or contract, is only as good as its reputation. Those that make enough people happy without disappointing too many is bound to survive. Robert Walters seems to be thriving in Japan. Unfortunately in life people talk about bad experiences in service more than good experiences; it would be interesting to see if any readers out there have had some good recruitment experiences with agencies, whether Robert Walters or others. I ask because I actually had a quite a good experience a few years ago with Robert Walters, and secured a job that otherwise I might never have known about.
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