Many tourists who come to Japan find themselves impressed by the cleanliness of the country, and it is no exaggeration that Japan is certainly one of the cleanest countries in the world. Spotless windows, hi-tech and hygienic washrooms greet tourists at the airport, and even extremely old buildings around town are clean and well maintained.
There are a few reasons why Japan does cleanliness so successfully. We may credit the meticulous attention to detail that the country seems to have when it comes to everything, the spirit of “Omotenashi” that aims to provide the utmost level of comfort and ease to others. Influencing aspects of Japanese culture aside, looking at the field itself, we are able to see that the industry is in fact highly organized.
JBMA, or Japan Building Maintenance Association, is an organization that operates across all 47 prefectures in Japan with the mission of maintaining comfort and cleanliness in buildings across the country. Aside from providing the public with information pertaining to the industry, the association provides support and assistance to those who are members of the organization by conducting seminars, courses, and providing information to individual businesses that will benefit the industry as a whole. The involvement of businesses across the country in the association may also play a part in promoting growth in the field while ensuring the quality of services remains high.
To better understand the full scope of the industry, let us examine the 6 different occupations that fall under the category of building cleaning and management as defined by JBMA. They are:
- Routine inspection of a building structure and built-in facilities such as electric wiring, piping, generators, chillers, and others to ensure that buildings meet common safety standards and promoting building longevity.
Building Hygiene Maintenance
– Regular inspection and cleaning of common-use water tanks, maintaining air quality, and extermination of harmful pests within the building.
Building Cleaning and Maintenance (Interior/Exterior)
- Interior: Cleaning all aspects of the entire interior of a building, including floors, walls, furniture, washrooms, elevators, and more. See also: Specialised Skilled Workers, Building Cleaning and Management See also: Specialised Skilled Workers, Building Cleaning and Management
- Exterior: Cleaning of the exterior of the building – outer walls, windows on higher floors, rooftops, and surrounding areas.
- Day to day security monitoring to ensure the safety of occupants within the building, routine checks of emergency equipment for proper function, surveillance of parking lots, and other relevant areas.
– Routine utility checks that the utilities within the building are functioning, as well as provide repairs and maintenance. These include electricity, gas, and water, ventilation, and also escalators and elevators.
- The reception staff of a building, providing information services, picking up and forwarding phone calls, operating elevators and so forth.
The Big Issue: Manpower Shortage
In a yearly report published by JBMA, the findings in a survey conducted among all members of the association across all 47 prefectures in Japan were summarised. The results included members’ expectations, current challenges faced by the industry, and employee statistics, among other data.
For many businesses in the industry, the shortage of manpower in recent years has been the main focus and a pressing issue that may lead to bigger problems if not resolved. Among companies that have answered the survey, 32.7% said there was a clear lack of full-time employees, while 45.5% said there was somewhat of a shortage. This effect is most prominently seen in the Kyushu prefecture in Southern Japan, where 43.9% of companies there said there weren’t enough employees, followed by Tokyo where 55% said there was somewhat of a lack. This puts overall consensus at 85.5% saying there is a lack of manpower in general.
Conclusion: While unfortunate, the lack of manpower is a problem that plagues not only the building cleaning and maintenance industry. It is clear that by introducing the new Specified Skilled Workers Visa, the Japanese government hopes to alleviate some of the burden felt by companies in important industries such as these.
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Also published on Medium.