Children of all ages idolize various vocations throughout their education and youth. Rightly or wrongly, almost every elementary school student has a ready-made answer to the question, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" While some responses are lofty—I wanted to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for more years than I care to admit—some can be surprisingly altruistic and down-to-earth.

Kuraray Co., Ltd. conducted a recent questionnaire targeting Japanese children beginning their time in elementary school. The survey probed the professions young people see themselves entering into in the future. In a recent press release, Kuraray discussed the results of the effort.

Japanese girls

Top responses among girls

  • 1: Cake shop / Bakery staff
  • 2: Entertainer / Singer / Model
  • 3: Nurse
  • 4: Florist
  • 5: Ice cream parlor staff

For the 23rd consecutive year—since the survey began in 1999—the most significant number of girls admitted that they hope to work at a cake shop or bakery in the future. With over a quarter of the tally (26.7%), the field outperformed others by a notable margin. Hinting at the ubiquity of sweet tooths in Japan, "Ice cream parlor staff” also performed, ascending in popularity from 6th to 5th place. "Police officer" also rose to become the 6th most popular occupation among girls. The result signifies an uptrend for the profession in both genders.

Naturally, YouTube remains a popular media platform with younger viewers throughout the island nation. A sign of the times, "YouTuber" also moved up the girls' rankings to no. 19 as the visibility of influencers continues to grow. Similarly, "Celebrity, singer, or model" maintained its 2nd place position. The category has held this top-tier spot since 2012 despite experiencing an ongoing downtrend that began in 2014.

Japanese boys

Top responses among boys

  • 1: Police officer
  • 2: Athlete
  • 3: Firefighter / Rescue team member
  • 4: Driver
  • 5: Anime character

For the first time in the survey’s history, the no. 1 and no. 2 rankings flipped among male respondents. "Police officer” surpassed "athlete" to become the occupation most attractive to Japanese boys. Historically, the ranking of “athlete” peaked in 2007. This year, it continued its gradual yet steady decline dropping 5.8 points year-over-year to capture 13% of the tally and the no. 2 spot.

Nevertheless, "police officer" accomplished the reversal after increasing 2.1 points from the previous year to accumulate 17.2% of responses. Moreover, the third most envied occupation was "firefighter and rescue team member." These widely-respected professions likely benefited from an increased interest in protecting public safety.

Unsurprisingly, young girls are not alone in their fondness of online personalities. "YouTuber," which entered the top ten rankings among boys for the first time last year, pushed to 7th place this year. As such, “YouTuber” notably scored higher among surveyed boys than girls. This seemingly reflects the effect of YouTube algorithms in Japan which regularly showcase famous vloggers and personalities such as Hikakin. "Anime character," also placed 5th perhaps implying that virtual YouTubers and the like are indeed a thing and may even represent a worthwhile occupation.

The parents of girls

Despite the laudable responses of Japanese children, a guiding hand is still necessary. Unsurprisingly, surveyed parents had different expectations for the future of their children:

Top responses among the parents of girls

  • 1: Nurse
  • 2: Civil servant
  • 3: Doctor
  • 4: Pharmacist
  • 5: Health care professional

Among the parents of girls, "nurse" maintained the no. 1 position it has held since the survey began. Moreover, medical professions continued to gain favourability among guardians. “Doctor” landed in 3rd place, "pharmacist" in 4th place, while 5th place was awarded to "health care professional." Finally, "public servant" realized a solid 2nd place standing while simultaneously accumulating its highest tally in the survey's history.

The parents of boys

Top responses among the parents of boys

  • 1: Civil servant
  • 2: Company employee
  • 3: Doctor
  • 4: Engineer
  • 5: Athlete

The leading response among the parents of young boys, "public servant," accounted for about a quarter of all replies. Meanwhile, "company employee" realized a robust 2nd place finish marking its highest ranking to date. As you may know, these occupations are considered reliable in Japan and are pillars of the country’s working class. Their popularity may reflect parents' strong desire for stability and job security throughout their children's professional lives. Lastly, "engineer" climbed four places from the previous year to realize a 4th place finish.

Unfortunately, neither the parents of girls nor boys placed much confidence in a career as a “YouTuber.” One can only imagine the countless household arguments that will be had as young people come of age and look to find their calling in an increasingly digitally dominated world.

By - Luke Mahoney.