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Japan’s chemical industry plays a key role in the strong economy of the Asian nation, where chemical engineering demands outweigh supply in the global workforce. Its prolific background is not limited to producing results but also gives stability to chemical engineers in the country.
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Japan’s industrial works are one of the leading across Asia and in the world. The diversified composition provides the backdrop of a robust Japanese economy. Among its main contributors would be the chemical industry. Considered as the foremost manufacturing industry after the automobile industry, it employs over 900,000 people in Japan and is responsible for a 44 trillion yen value of shipments in the economy. The chemical industry is responsible for mixed consumer-related products such as chemicals, cosmetics, plastic, rubbers, organic materials, and other manufacturing equipment. At the beginning of the decade, the industry received a steady rise in investments and continues to, paving the way for continuous development and expansion in the industry.
※ Japan Chemical Industry Association, "Chemical Industry of Japan 2019," p.1
As the sector remains a promising foothold in Japan’s assets, a constant demand for workers, especially chemical engineering background, is also on the rise. This particular facet is even heightened by the trajectory of the present-day market to comply with the emerging demands of globalization. In fact, Japan’s chemical industry is in need when it comes to employing chemical engineers with bilingual capabilities.
Although the Japanese government already loosened up restrictions on foreign employment, the chemical industry remains an available sector for the entry of chemical engineers. Upon knowing the chemical industry's actual conditions in the country, one might be interested in pursuing careers in one of the chemical companies in Japan.
Japan’s chemical industry is composed of various companies renowned globally for their industrial innovations. Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation, Fujifilm Holdings Corporation, Sumitomo Chemical Company Limited, Shiseido Company, Asahi Kasei Corporation, and Mitsui Chemicals are some of the leaders of the Japanese chemical industry where chemical engineers are needed. Each has their respective emphasis and specialization when it comes to chemicals. For instance, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings is focused on developing performance products and industrial materials, while Shiseido Company is inclined to manufacturing cosmetics and other personal toiletry products. Another example would be Mitsui Chemicals, wherein the company is focused on producing agricultural related products such as fertilizers and gas chemicals. At the same time, Fujifilm Holdings Corporation leads the way for optical products such as cameras and photographs.
This entails that regardless of a company’s branding in the industry, there are considerable opportunities where a foreigner could work as a chemical engineer. But one may ask, what are the specific job descriptions of a chemical engineer in Japan?
Depending upon the company that one may be interested in, the job description for a chemical engineer in Japan may encompass many things. A chemical engineer can be tasked with factories, corporate settings, and research laboratories. These various settings will work with one another, and chemical engineers play a crucial role in the general setting of a chemical company.
In factories, chemical engineers are tasked to oversee direct product development involving chemicals. Primarily, this is a technical job since they are hands-on in the employment setting. Aside from product development, they are also tasked to manage and improve the company’s product. Specifically, chemical engineers can be tasked directly with a patent application, material development, and technology utilization. They can also manage the general industrial setting in coordination with mechanical and civil engineers by monitoring the condition, development, maintenance, and other related works to products in the factory.
In a corporate setting, chemical engineers are tasked to lead projects for the company. It is here where a chemical engineer is responsible for the creation of a project plan where it involves aspects of data analysis and progress management. They will be working hand in hand with other corporate posts that will be contributing to a specific project’s materialization. Furthermore, chemical engineers in this setting will handle the decision-making process of the overall corporate body.
Lastly, chemical engineers can be deployed in research laboratories. In this setting, they would be responsible for synthesizing patented designs for the company. Throughout the procedure, the chemical engineer would be responsible for actual experimentation with other chemical engineers and team members. The products or results rendered by the research laboratory will be sent to other divisions in the company, whether it would be a forerunner of a noble development plan.
The basic qualification requirements for a chemical engineer in Japan are the following:
Educational attainment in Chemical engineering (bachelor’s degree or higher level)
1 to 2 years experience in the chemical industry (candidates with sufficient industrial-level experience are preferable)
Specialized skills related to chemical engineering and using technical models
Communication skills (can speak and understand English and Japanese)
Employment locations may vary depending upon the set up of the company. Sometimes, facilities of these employment settings are distanced from one place to another. For example, in Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation, chemical engineers in the factory setting could be deployed in Hiroshima, while those who are employed in the corporate environment are deployed in their headquarters located in Tokyo.
Compensatory packages for chemical engineers vary depending on how large the company is. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the average annual income of engineers is 5.72 million yen with an additional average annual bonus of 1.06 million yen.
A General Chemist and Chemical Analyst, both for men and women, has an average yearly income of 5 million yen or approximately 330,000 yen monthly income with almost 1 to 2 million yen annual bonus.They are guaranteed of other benefits such as bonuses and overtime pay. They are also eligible for various kinds of employment leave, such as annual paid leave and special leave. Other benefits may include housing and transportation allowance. On the aspect of insurance, they are eligible to receive health insurance, employee insurance, and retirement plans. Lastly, chemical engineers are adept at receiving an annual salary raise, depending upon the company's contract.
An example of a high paying Pharmaceutical and inspection equipment company is the Eiken Chemicals headquartered in Tokyo. Based on the 2020 Investigation of securities report, the company offers an average annual income of 7.54 million yen for general employees and around 12 million yen for a managerial position. Even though the report did not specifically mention the average salary of the Chemical Engineers, take note of the average 50-54 years old employee with a University degree, almost definitely in managerial and higher positions, earning approximately 10 million yen per year - quite a high salary.
※ Heikinnenshu, "Explaining the annual income of a professional engineer in detail" ※ Heikinnenshu, "Annual income ranking occupation edition! What is your 1st occupation? !! Men and women commentary!" ※ Heikinnenshu, "Eiken Chemical's annual income"
One thing to note is that most Japanese chemical engineers have taken the national engineer licensing exam. The exam is not necessarily mandatory for foreign nationals, as it is in Japanese, but experience may be required to make up for that, especially for higher positions. However, as the need for English-speakers in the industry is dire in Japan, some companies hire straight out of universities, even from abroad.
For those who are seeking to work as a chemical engineer in Japan, obtaining the appropriate visa is necessary. The visa for a chemical engineer would be an engineering visa. Application for such can be arranged with the company considering that the Certificate of Eligibility, a necessary employment document, could be handled with the company's coordination at the regional embassy in Japan. The duration of the visa may depend upon the contract, and visa grantees are eligible for re-application when the visa expires, considering that the employee meets the necessary requirements for it.
Read more about Engineering visas here
Japan's chemical industry is a conducive setting for chemical engineers. Other than the obvious promise of more than hefty financial compensation, working with companies on the top of the line would also further improve one's professional career. The industry in Japan is nothing short of an opportunity for foreign English speakers because of its need for bilingual professionals to both connect with customers and allow possible future international collaborations. With the right qualifications, one is able to choose from many prestigious and promising companies to enter. As a chemical engineer, to pursue your dreams, why not Japan?
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