Everything You Should Know About the Building Cleaning Industry in Japan
It has since evolved from just "post-cleaning" to "preventive-cleaning."
Japan has a reputation for cleanliness. You’ll always find Japanese homes, office buildings, shopping centers, hotels, and schools to be all spotlessly clean. Compared to other countries in Asia, buildings that were built years or even decades ago are still well-maintained in Japan. This is the kind of high-quality building cleaning service that Japan is mostly known for worldwide.
When one talks about building cleaning, what comes to mind? If you’re coming from a Southeast Asian country, your thoughts might lean towards “janitorial services.” However, this isn’t always the case in Japan.
What is building cleaning?
In Japan, building cleaning is divided into two types: exterior and interior cleaning. Exterior cleaning covers the outer walls, windows, rooftops, and other areas around the buildings. It can be difficult to maintain a well-kept exterior without a professional cleaning service. People who clean the exterior of buildings possess the qualifications to do so, which also means that a certain level of skill is required to do this kind of job.
On the other hand, interior cleaning involves the floors, ceilings, inner walls, restrooms, lightings, elevators, escalators, and other areas within the building. In short, the cleaning is all done in the safe, air-conditioned, and comfortable interiors of the building. Those who are involved in the building cleaning management industry usually fall under this type, including the specified skilled workers.
More often than not, there is a tendency to label this profession as just manual labor. However, there is so much more to this job than meets the eye. Knowledge of the equipment, materials, and detergents is a prerequisite of this job in Japan. A professional eye is required to know which machine to use, which detergent is appropriate for cleaning floors, ceilings, windows, etc., and what goes well with certain products.
It doesn’t stop there. Aside from understanding the different cleaning methods, workers have gone well beyond and evolved from “post-cleaning” to “preventive-cleaning.” This involves applying treatment to the surfaces before dirt accumulates on them as opposed to cleaning them when they’re dirty. This contributes greatly to maintaining a building’s sanitation and good appearance.
Cleaning restrooms is also part of the job description of a building cleaning worker. While this may not be appealing to many, restroom cleaning is actually very important in Japanese culture. This is because the ancient Japanese believe that there are gods living in the restrooms. They say that when a restroom is kept clean, the owner will be rich and lucky. Thus, keeping a restroom clean could result in a successful business. Another reason is that mold and bacteria grow well in restrooms. If a restroom is kept dirty, people are likely to get sick.
Overall, Japanese buildings are always clean and sanitized. This neatness is not only a testament to their culture but also helps in building a good impression among customers. Cleanliness alone becomes an indirect strategy for increasing sales for Japanese businesses. It provides facility users a safe, hygienic, and comfortable environment, and increases the sustainability of the buildings themselves.
The common working hours for building cleaning workers is eight hours per day, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a one-hour break. Most building cleaning staff work part-time, though, because they’re supposed to do the cleaning in the early morning or at midnight when the buildings are empty. In shopping malls, workers usually work during the day. In hotels, they often work between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to meet the need for housekeeping services before check-in and after check-out.
Most of the time, the skills needed for this profession are learned on the job. Formal education or work experience is not required in this industry. Usually, beginners will get short-term training from more experienced staff, learning how to use floor buffers, polishers, and solutions. However, if you’re planning on getting a Specified Skilled Worker visa, you will need to pass the skills test.
The average wage for a part-time job is ¥8,000 to ¥10,000 per day. But, the base-line wage has been increasing for building cleaning in recent years due to the labor shortage.
Besides transportation fees and overtime pay, uniforms are also provided. The career path for building cleaners doesn’t just end there. If you’re able to achieve the level of a “building-cleaning technician,” you’ll eventually get a higher income.
Like other industries, there is a labor shortage in building cleaning because of economic recovery. The number of buildings is increasing year by year. Despite hiring many retirees and housewives, raising janitors’ wages, and adopting efficient machines and robots, the labor shortage remains. The industry, therefore, is pushing for a system for recruiting foreign workers. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 37,000 foreign workers will be recruited as full-time employees for building cleaning within the next five years.
To improve your career in this field, you can strive to become a “building-cleaning technician” and a “cleaning business supervisor.” Equipped with the skills and knowledge that you learned from this job, you can soon open your very own business. Although building cleaning is an exhausting profession, you’ll eventually get used to it and become good at it. You’ll also feel rewarded when you see that your work is not only appreciated by customers but also contributes to the cleanliness and beauty of the environment in general.
(26 September 2019)