One of the greatest misfortunes that befall the world during the ongoing CoVID-19 crisis is the shutting down of international borders. As cross-border movements of people decrease dramatically, those who seek to boost their work experience through working abroad suffer the most.
This misfortune is particularly acute for the African continent. More than 140 million people of African descent, consisting of both recent migrants and the formerly enslaved, reside in advanced economies of Europe and the Americas. Many of these individuals, by bringing financial and technical resources they acquired working outside the continent, directly and indirectly, help the continued development of African economies and societies. As countries of Europe and the Americas close their international borders to foreigners, including most African migrants, the resulting damage to future African development will be significant.
To offset the restriction on inflows put in place by European and American authorities, African migrants would be wise to seek out alternatives to these traditional Western destinations for boosting their career prospects. Here I suggest Africans look no further than Japan and South Korea, two advanced economies in East Asia.
The biggest attraction to foreign migrants for the two countries today is that they have escaped the COVID crisis largely unscathed from both an economic and health standpoint. While COVID has driven the unemployment rate of the US and many European countries into the double digits, Japan's unemployment rate merely increased from 2.5% to 2.6% in May 2020, while South Korea's went from 3.8% to 4.5% in the same period. Moreover, as the latest tally shows close to 150,000 deaths from COVID in the US, only 300 and 1,000 died from the epidemic in South Korea and Japan, respectively. The two countries, especially when compared to the West, offer more job opportunities in a less fatal environment.
And that environment is increasingly open to foreigners. Economic growth, labor shortage, low birth rates, and an aging society has led to a dramatic increase in the number of foreign workers in the two countries in recent years. Japan's foreign workers exceeded 1.5 million in 2018, tripling in one decade. Foreign workers in South Korea are also approaching 900,000, up 30% in six years. Yet, in both countries, the number of Africans remain few. In Japan, government figures show that less than 7,000 Africans, 3000 of whom from Nigeria, reside in the country. In South Korea, Chinese migrants make up more than half of all foreigners in the country, with less than 100,000 in total coming out of the Asian continent and a negligible number of Africans.
The lack of African residents in both countries is an opportunity for those from the continent willing to go. Japan has been drumming up increased economic exchanges with Africa, notably through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held since 1993. South Korea has also emphasized the economic relationship with Africa in recent years, through events such as the Seoul Dialogue on Africa, Korea-Africa Business Forum, and the Africa-Korea Forum. To fulfill the goal of furthering the economic relationship between Africa and the two countries, more Africans need to be familiar with as well as work in Japan and South Korea.
Unfortunately, due to the lower number of Africans in Japan and South Korea today, the number of online resources accessible for those interested in understanding these two relatively unfamiliar countries remain insufficient. A friend and I, as such, started a YouTube channel to assist foreigners, including Africans, to understand what it is like working in Japan and South Korea. By providing practical, firsthand information relating to both the workplace and private lives as foreign professionals, we seek to help others not only to understand the two countries but be prepared to find jobs and make the physical moves to Japan and South Korea when the COVID-related cross-border movement restrictions are lifted.
Kindly subscribe to our channel to understand the ins and outs of being a professional in these two dynamic East Asian economies that are becoming more open to foreigners by the day.
Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQiy_aN2Ins