Chinese firms engaging ‘cheap’ Japanese animators in reversal of fortune

Published (HKT): 2021.04.08 06:55

Growth of the Chinese animation market and salaries has created demand for Japanese graphic artists, with jobs being outsourced to Japan in a reversal of fortunes between the two economies.

As a large exporter of animation, Japanese companies used to pass work to China, where the labor was cheap. But as Japan’s economy stagnated, it took merely a third of the Chinese pay to hire Japanese animation artists, business news outlet President Online reported.

At Japanese company Colored Pencil, fresh graduates could get an above-average salary of 175,000 yen (US$1,590) per month, with housing and transport benefits thrown in to keep the talented ones from leaving, the report said.

Only 14% of animators in Japan held permanent jobs, while others worked on a contract basis, President Online reported. Just 30% were satisfied with their jobs, and 80% were worried about psychological pressure and life after retirement.

Salaries were much higher in mainland China, where animators could hit monthly averages equivalent to 520,000 yen in Hangzhou and 450,000 yen in Beijing, according to data from recruitment websites. The high pay meant many in China would aspire to do four years of design and illustration studies in school.

China’s animation market had been growing and needed many artists from Japan, a Japanese industry source told the news outlet, adding that the competition for talent would only get fiercer by the day, with Chinese companies easily able to afford overseas staffers.

Colored Pencil chief executive Eguchi Bunjiro said that Chinese companies had deep pockets and full sets of equipment for animation, as seen from the clear improvements in the quality of their productions. By contrast, artists in Japan were poorly treated, causing a drop in animation quality, and the industry might also stagnate, Eguchi added.

Analysts suggested that China’s strict censorship could be a main factor in its failure to catch up with Japan as the major exporter of animation globally.

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