Incentives for international migration of scientists and engineers to Japan

Yukiko Murakami*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Many developed countries, welcome foreign talent, and Japan is no exception. The Japanese government has developed programmes for expanding the acceptance of foreign labour in specialized and technical fields, in order to compete with foreign nations in the global economy and accommodate the highly specialized domestic industrial structure. This paper focuses on scientists and engineers (S&E) as a component of the highly skilled labour force, and examines their incentives for migrating to Japan, which is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. According to a survey conducted in 2004, the majority of S&E working in Japan migrated from Asian nations, and many obtained their doctoral degrees in Japan and continued to stay in the country to work. Key incentives for migration are Japan's high level of science and technology, opportunities to acquire cutting-edge knowledge, and prospects for improving performance in an environment with large budgets, superior equipment and facilities, and good quality human resources. In particular, the technological environment is influential for S&E from countries with a significant technological gap when compared with Japan. However, this does not mean that S&E are indifferent to monetary rewards. The salary gap, which is considered to be a major factor in international mobility in to traditional economic theory, has also proven to be a significant incentive, particularly for S&E from countries where the gap in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita compared with Japan is large. In addition, cultural and social aspects of Japan attract mainly young S&E. The attractiveness of Japanese culture, opportunities to learn the Japanese language, and chances to build a network of personal contacts are important incentives for migration. This study presents some policy implications for countries competing over capable S&E.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-91
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Migration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Sept 17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography


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