The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

If we had a crystal ball at our disposal, what would the future hold for Nagoya City and the Chubu region in 10 years’ time? There are several schools of thought in this area, but little hard­core data to help navigate a clear path.

Many experts would say that the future economic and social outlook for Japan’s manufacturing hub is bright, and there are several reasons for this—the most important being the Linear Chuo Shinkansen, which uses maglev technology.

This new train line, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2027, will shorten the travel time between Nagoya and Tokyo from 90 minutes to 40, while adding only ¥700 to the ticket price. This represents a 55-percent decrease in time and just a six-percent increase in the fare. This 505-kilometer-per-hour connection could essentially create a single eco­nomic zone between the two cities.

But there are some that say this en­deavor is a risk to the region, giving the larger metropolitan area a way to pull resources and labor from its smaller counterpart. A shorter commute to Japan’s most influential city could entice Nagoya’s top executives and middle managers to move. Tokyo traditionally pays higher salaries, provides greater growth opportunities, and boasts one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan environments, with better higher education, medical services, and cultural attractions.

What must Nagoya do to ensure that the area can thrive in a future that will provide locals an opportunity to move to Tokyo, while easily coming back to Nagoya on weekends or even daily?

One answer is that we need to make sure we are developing our resources and becoming a more desirable city. Nagoya is currently a very attrac­tive place to live and do business. It also offers a number of key eco­nomic advantages, including a new inter­national airport, one of the country’s largest ports, cheaper commercial rents, shorter average com­mutes, a lower cost of living, a great public school system, inter­national schools, and larger home sizes.

But areas remain that need improvement.

One of the biggest challenges we face in the Chubu region is developing a strong, diverse workforce to meet the area’s growing needs.

Of Japan’s 47 prefectures and territo­ries, Nagoya ranks 33rd in workforce diversity for women. Access to quality daycare, shorter working hours for male employees, and a higher percentage of women as full-time workers are three of the key factors that put Japan’s highest-ranking cities at the top. If Nagoya is to keep its talent and attract newcomers, then local government and businesses must turn their attention to these and other important elements of building a diverse and vibrant workforce.

The 2018 Chubu Women in Business Summit will look to address these issues head on, with an eye to the changes that need to take place. Our objective is to map out a path to ensure that we have a diverse and vibrant workforce in 2027. In this way, we can prepare for and embrace with open arms the Linear Chuo Shinkansen and the ¥10.7 trillion economic benefit it is forecast to bring to Nagoya and the Chubu region over five decades.

Nao Geisler is chair of the ACCJ–Chubu Women in Business Committee.