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Millenials and Gen Z in Japan: 5 Approaches to Work  

[March 17, 2021] BY Worker's Resort Editorial Team

Breaking down the workforce 

By 2025, 75% of the world’s working population is predicted to be made up of millennials and Generation Z. Their presence in society as a whole is growing every year, according to a 2016 analysis of UN population data by recruitment firm ManpowerGroup. 

In Japan, although the percentage is lower than the rest of the world, these generations are forecasted to account for about 50% of the workforce by 2025.

According to the definitions widely used in the U.S., millennials are those born between 1981 and 1994 (26-39 years old as of 2020), and Generation Z are those born between 1995 and 2002 (18-25 years old as of 2020).

While some of the definitions are shared globally, others are unique to each country and are formed by the social, cultural, and economic backgrounds of each country. In this article, we will focus on millennials and Gen Z in Japan and examine their five main views of the workplace. 

Characteristics and Differences between Millennials and Generation Z in Japan

It is said that millennials and Gen Z share many of the same characteristics. They are better educated and well versed in technology and social media compared with other generations. However, there are also significant differences in their values and preferences due to their social environment and the working style of their parents’ generation. 

* Understanding Japan’s Generation Z / Professor Toru Saito, Business Breakthrough University (published in 2020)

** Deloitte Millennial Annual Survey Global Translation Edition (2019 Edition)

*** JETRO New York Dayori (published in October 2018)

5 attitudes toward work among Millennials and Gen Z in Japan

1. They do not separate their work and private lives

The workplace views held by Japan’s millennials and Generation Z are changing in tandem with the rapid pace of the times. The term work-life balance, which refers to the idea of separating work and personal life,  as well as balancing the two, is frequently heard in Japan. Millennials and Gen Z both believe in a way of working that is an extension of this idea.

For example, they share the idea of work-life integration. This blurs the line between work and personal life while seeking to enrich both. They also share the idea of work-life Jenga, which places the importance of both work and personal time equally side by side. 

These ideas are attracting the attention of Japan’s millennials and Gen Z for their unconfined flexibility between work and private life and for their more integrated approach.

2. They are interested in diverse working styles and side jobs but are concerned about instability

Japanese millennials and Gen Z tend to be interested in and are receptive to the gig economy and slash careers (a way of working that is not limited to one occupation, but is active in various fields while holding down multiple jobs and activities).

A 2018 survey, conducted by Japan Net Bank, found that 60% of millennials are interested in slash careers, 70% have experience or the intention to work on the side, and about 25% have a side job. 

In addition, in Deloitte’s 2019 Annual Survey of Millennials, four out of five people in the gig economy are millennials and Gen Z, and more than 80% of millennials and Gen Z intend to participate in the gig economy. This shows a high level of interest in diverse and flexible working styles.

However, they are also concerned about the instability of income and uncertainty of the future in the gig economy, indicating mixed opinions among the young generations.

3. They have low company loyalty 

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Millennial Attitudes Survey for Japan, 49% of Japanese millennials and 64% of Gen Z expect to continue working at their current employer for two years or less. The results are similar to those found in a global survey of 42 countries, indicating a high intention to leave their place of work and a low sense of belonging.

Deloitte’s 2020 Annual Millennial Survey revealed that the number of Japanese millennials and Gen Z who want to leave their current employer within two years decreased compared to 2019. In contrast, the percentage of those who wish to stay with their current employer for five years or more increased since 2019. 

However, Japanese millennials and Gen Z rated their satisfaction with their companies’ response to the pandemic around 50% in all categories, which is lower than those of other countries.

These responses may be attributed to the global recession, the bursting of the IT bubble, and rapid economic fluctuations. The growth of digital communications could also be a cause. In any case, it can be said that both millennials and Generation Z have been greatly influenced by the fact that they spent a long time in economic, social, and political chaos. This has led to a growing distrust of society, government, and by extension, corporations, making it difficult for them to develop positive associations with them.

4. They view their career as a marathon and take advantage of long vacations

Both Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s report on the percentage of young graduates who leave their job within the first three years of graduation and the surveys referenced in this article so far demonstrate that the two generations’ turnover rate is quite high. 

Thus, it is not surprising that Japanese people ridicule the younger generations for changing jobs quickly and moving around a lot. But, is this really the case?

In a report titled “Millennial Careers: Visions for 2020,” conducted by ManpowerGroup, there are some interesting findings regarding their career span and goals. Most millennials in each country said they expect to work longer in their careers than previous generations. 

In Japan, 72% of millennials expect to work beyond the age of 65, and more than a third say they plan to work until they die. In addition, 80% say they work more than 40 hours a week, signifying that millennials are as committed to their careers as any other generation.

The reason behind these figures could be that in addition to the aforementioned views on work, millennials assume they will have a long career ahead of them due to their economic, social, and political background. 

The ManpowerGroup report asserts that this generation views its career “as an ultramarathon. A career is not seen as one job for life, but as a series of waves with several breaks along the way, changing paths and paces.” It is likely that many people of this generation see it this way.

They consider rest as part of their path toward completing their marathon of a career, and 84% of millennials worldwide expect to take a long vacation at some point. Even in Japan, 70% expect to take a vacation of four weeks or more in the middle of their career for themselves.

5. Stability remains the most important factor when choosing a company, and they actively seek opportunities for career advancement and growth

So, what do millennials and Gen Z want from their employers in what is likely to be a long career?

In the aforementioned ManpowerGroup survey, the top five priorities for Japanese millennials when choosing where and how to work are compensation (88%), vacation (78%), benefits (75%), stability (68%), and flexible work arrangements (61%). With 70% saying they wish to stay with their current company, they, like the previous generation, seek a stable workplace.

But, having employers who offer new opportunities for growth and advancement is just as important. In the same survey, when asked how long they could remain in the same position before being promoted or transferred, 64% said less than two years and 35% said less than one year. Thus, millennials and Gen Z value regular career advancement and growth.

Company review site Comparably conducted a survey in 2018 of millennials and Gen Z in the States. It found that GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) and other major technology companies were ranked as the top 10 ideal companies. Opportunities for career advancement, contribution to society, and flexible work systems were cited as positive attributes. 

Furthermore, Vorkers Inc. (now Openwork Inc.), a company review site similar to Comparably, conducted a study in Japan titled, “Generational Ranking of Reasons for Joining a Company” in 2018. In it, 40% of millennials cited “personal growth/career,” followed by “industry/business content” and “company size/stability/name recognition” as their top 3 reasons for joining a company. 

Millennials and Gen Z seek employment stability in a different sense. They view it as career advancement and opportunities for growth, rather than the traditional meaning of lifetime employment.

In Summary

Differing views between generations stem from societal changes. In this article, we focused on millennials and Generation Z, two generations that will surely play a leading role in the Japanese labor market going forward. Although data is useful in discerning their views on work, it would be hollow to merely compare the generational gaps. By understanding the views of each generation, we can get a deeper look at the particular changes and trends of the times.