It does pay better than being a superhero, after all.
Staffing services company Adecco recently carried out a survey of children in seven Asian territories, asking them what sort of job they hope to have in the future. Much as you’d expect in any country, some of the respondents were kids who’re dreaming of becoming professional athletes or artists, but the results for Japan showed the nation’s kids to have a surprisingly pragmatic streak.
In Japan, Adecco polled 500 boys and 500 girls between the ages of 6 and 15. The top responses for the boys were:
9 (tie). Architect/contractor (2.8 percent)
9 (tie). Paramedic/firefighter (2.8 percent)
9 (tie). Engineer/programmer (2.8 percent)
7 (tie). Driver (bus, taxi, train, etc.) (4.2 percent)
7 (tie). Police officer/detective (4.2 percent)
6. Scholar/researcher (3.4 percent)
4 (tie). Doctor (6.2 percent)
4 (tie). Professional baseball player (6.2 percent)
3. Civil servant (6.6 percent)
2. Professional soccer player (10 percent)
1. Businessperson (10.2 percent)
Not only did businessperson (kaishain (literally “company worker” in Japanese) dethrone soccer player, which was last year’s boys’ champion, the buttoned-down aspiration also had a strong showing in the responses from girls, which were:
10. Singer (2.4 percent)
9. Manga creator (2.6 percent)
8. Music/art instructor (2.8 percent)
7. Fashion designer (3 percent)
6. Nurse (4.6 percent)
5. Civil servant (4.8 percent)
4. Doctor (5.6 percent)
3. Businessperson (5.8 percent)
2. Educator (preschool-university) (6.4 percent)
1. Confectioner (11 percent)
While confectioner was the top choice for the second year in a row, businessperson still made the top three. And when all of the votes from both boys and girls were put together, businessperson was the top overall choice.
▼ “Look, if you want me to work here, I’m going to need three juice boxes a day, plus two weeks’ of paid nap time every year.”
Before you’re tempted to chalk the results up as being indicative of Asian culture in general, note that out of the seven Asian areas in which the survey was carried out (with sample sizes ranging from 150 to 1,500 respondents aged 7 to 14), only in Japan was businessperson one of the three most common results.
▼ Overall results based on responses from both boys and girls
In Japan, some online commenters lamented the down-to-earth attitude being displayed by the country’s children. “Isn’t childhood a time to dream big?” wondered detractors, while others pointed out that “businessperson” is a vague term that doesn’t really indicate any specific profession.
In the defense of the many Japanese kids who said they aspire to become businesspeople, it’s fairly common for Japanese companies to transfer employees from one functional division to another in order to give them a broader perspective on the organization’s operations, and thus many won’t spend their entire career in a single department such as marketing or human resources. It’s also common for young children to imagine themselves working in a field they have some familiarity with. That may take the form of professions kids come into direct contact with, such as doctors or teachers, but many will also envision themselves doing the same sort of work their parents do, and in largely white-collar Japan, there’s a good chance Mom and Dad are kaishain.
More than anything else, though, the strong showing by “businessperson” in the results for Japan is a reflection of the country’s societal and cultural values. Japanese culture stresses the importance of not causing problems for others, which for adults includes being monetarily self-sufficient. Japanese economic ambitions run more towards stability than luxurious wealth, and the former isn’t so far-fetched for white-collar workers. That may not be the most exciting goal, it has some definite advantages in helping to avoid the problems with personal debt that have plagued many other nations in recent years.
So while one could argue that Japan’s top choice in the survey is kind of disappointing coming from kids, it’s not such a bad pick for when they grow up an actually join the workforce.