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Pssst. Wanna buy a posutodoku?

Posted for David Cyranoski

Question: What to do with all those spare Japanese postdocs?

Answer: Sell them to industry.

Japan’s science and education ministry has an unemployment problem on its hands: postdocs. Efforts in the 1990s to cultivate postdocs to fill in gaps in the research environment worked—all too well—and now there are tens of thousands without work in a university system shrinking under pressures from government streamlining and declining population (declining student bodies).

Industry traditionally has not wanted to deal with postdocs, preferring to recruit straight out of university and train its R&D staff on location.

The education ministry wants to change this.

The details of the new plan are not ironed out, but the basic outline is that they will pay companies somewhere in the range of JPY 4 million to JPY 5 million (US$40,000 – US$50,000) to take on unemployed postdocs.

Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) will likely administer the program. Companies will submit applications to JST describing what they need the researcher for. If the application is approved, JST will try to match with the company with one of the postdocs registered on its Japan Research Career Information Network.

The ministry is seeking JPY 500 million in the supplementary budget under discussion by the current parliamentary session. That session is expected to end in June, the postdoc budget is likely to pass, and the ministry will immediately start taking applications according to Ms. Seto, the education ministry’s “Posutodoku” manager. I hadn’t known the ministry had a postdoc manager.

She envisions that the program will save 100 lucky postdocs.

That will still be a drop from the postdoc bucket. As of February, Japan Research Career Information Network had 17,827 unemployed postdocs in science related fields alone, and there were likely many more that had not registered, Seto says.


  1. Report this comment

    zayzayem said:

    I don’t “sell them to industry” is the appropriate analogy when the Japanese government is paying companies to take them on board.

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