Internships in Japan: Japan's changing work landscape

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

By: James Cahyadi P.

Published date: September 23, 2019

The concept of internships is new to a country built on the idea of life-long employment beginning immediately after graduation, but more and more students turn to internships to gain job experience in an ever-changing employment landscape.

The idea of ‘internships’ in the west is an ancient one and by ancient, we're talking centuries. The concept of internships dates back to the 11th century’s system of apprenticeship. The modern version we know, however, has only begun to form in the early 20th century. Even then, it’s significance at the time was quite negligible, with only a mere 3% of the American college student body having completed one by the '80s. Despite that, it did not take long for the popularity of internships to skyrocket. By the turn of the century, a reported minimum of 80% of college students in the United States have completed at least one internship during their college years.

Are internships still as important? The picture painted by companies makes it look as if the answer is a resounding yes. Gradually, internships are changing to becoming the new entry-level job with a majority of the student body gaining their first work experience through one. A report by the Chronicle of Higher Education even claims that employers place experience (in particular, internships) as the most important factor they consider when hiring new graduates.

In fact, the internship craze has now reached a whole new level. On one end of the spectrum, employers are increasingly offering attractive perks to lure skilled interns (Walt Disney for example, offers free admission to Disneyland for their interns) and on the other end of the spectrum, you have students paying to just to get an internship, creating a whole new industry profiting from connecting students to businesses.