RIEB Discussion Paper Series No.2021-13

RIEB Discussion Paper Series No.2021-13


Work Practices of German Expatriates in Japan during Covid-19 Pandemic Situation


By interviewing several German expatriates in Japan, the author received a general picture of their experiences and the status quo of the pandemic situation in the country. Since the spread of Covid-19, the majority of German expatriates in Japan were forced to work from home. With almost zero in-person contact with local managers, expatriates reported that it was difficult for them to have a direct impact on the performance of their subsidiaries. A further concern was that the number of expatriations was expected to decline in the near future. This was because their headquarters would have realized that by communicating with subsidiaries through the electronic media directly from headquarters, there could be substantial cost savings (at least for the short-term).

In applying the principal-agent theory and network theory, it became apparent that expatriates were facing a challenging situation in the current pandemic. Whereas relationships with headquarters were strengthened, networking with local Japanese managers tended to be weak or even non-existent. However, expatriates may become even more efficient in the future because electronic communication with headquarters leads to streamlined procedures, enhanced performance and better financial results. Earlier research indicated that it was important to have adequate overlap time for incumbents to acquaint successors with the local business so that there would be a smooth and successful transfer. In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, it might be necessary to increase this time span.


Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration
Kobe University
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