A report by Bloomberg in October 2019 found that the population of Japan aged 14 or younger had fallen by nearly 1 million people over the past 10 years. This is a direct result of the nation’s low birth rate, which has been below replacement level for decades. The story attracted worldwide attention, with many wondering how a country as developed and wealthy as Japan could be facing such a demographic crisis.
But there is one bright spot in the data: the number of births to foreign women has been steadily increasing. In 2018, nearly one in five births in Japan were to mothers who were not Japanese citizens. This is largely due to an influx of foreign workers, many of whom are employed in the country’s construction and hospitality industries.
One Singaporean family has been at the forefront of this trend. The patriarch of the family, Koh Swee Cheng, is the chairman of United Overseas Bank (UOB), one of Singapore’s biggest banks. He and his wife have four children, all of whom were born in Japan.
The Kohs are not the only Singaporean banking family with a presence in Japan. DBS Group Holdings, another major Singaporean bank, also has a strong presence in the country.
The Singaporean government has been encouraging its citizens to work and invest abroad, and the Kohs are a prime example of this policy in action. Their story shows that Singaporean firms can be successful in Japan, and that there is potential for more Singaporean families to follow in their footsteps.
The Kohs’ success in Japan is due in part to their willingness to adapt to local customs. For example, they have adopted a Japanese style of eating, with the family sitting on floor cushions around a low table. They have also hired a Japanese tutor for their children, and all four of them are fluent in the language.
The family’s openness to Japan has been reciprocated by the Japanese people they have met. They have been welcomed into the community and have made many friends.
The Kohs’ story highlights the potential for Singaporean firms to succeed in Japan. It also shows that the country is open to foreign investment and talent. With the right attitude and approach, more Singaporean families could find success in Japan.