Japan's senior students face a tough year for jobs. Early surveys indicate that leading employers intend to recruit fewer graduates for the 1999-2000 financial year.
The shrinking graduate job market is a consequence of the economic difficulties confronting Japan and the other countries of East Asia.
Manufacturing and service sector companies, which have traditionally employed many graduates, are having to trim payrolls to cut costs and boost profits.
Earlier this year the national unemployment figure reached 3.9 per cent - the highest since records started in 1953.
Senior students from the lower status junior colleges are expected to find it hardest to find a job. Surveys indicate a 6 to 9 per cent fall in the number of job offers next year.
Even graduates of higher status universities are expected to experience a drop by between 1 and 3 per cent in jobs on offer.
Women, who account for about 90 per cent of the places at junior colleges, are expected to be hardest hit, especially because of the implementation of stricter equal opportunity laws from April 1999.
"Many female graduates are traditionally employed as lower salaried workers who could easily be laid off when necessary," said student Mariko Ishizawa. "Now companies are expected to provide female graduates with the same career advancement programmes as male graduates."
Yuko Nakamura, a senior student at Osaka University, said: "Female graduates are demanding the same sort of lifetime employment opportunities that are available to male graduates. But companies are reducing the number of permanent employees they recruit and hiring more temporary agency workers instead."
A recent spate of costly sex discrimination court cases may also discourage companies from recruiting large numbers of female graduates.
"Some companies are playing safe by hiring fewer female graduates," Ms Ishizawa claimed.
In response to the anticipated difficulties of finding jobs many students are seeking to gain additional qualifications in information technology, foreign languages and other skills.
The decline in job opportunities has also encouraged the expansion of career counselling and other services, which tempt students by offering to increase their chances of securing employment.