Jobs in Japan go into deep freeze

May 17, 1996

In the boom years of the early 1990s demand for employees in Japan meant that senior students at universities were frequently offered a choice of jobs 12 months or more before they graduated.

Now, in the wake of the country's deepest recession since the second world war, companies have cut recruitment and many senior students are finding it difficult to find jobs at all.

Careers' adviser Mitsuru Tamaki said: "Even graduates from top universities are having difficulty securing jobs. Japan is firmly in the grips of a super ice age of graduate job opportunities."

The freeze means that as many as 100,000 graduates were still without jobs after their graduating ceremonies in April.

Many universities are developing their information technology departments to prepare students for jobs in the expanding computer industry.

The government has also been attempting to reduce graduate unemployment by introducing short-term workplace training programmes for jobless graduates. The scheme, in which the government pays a portion of each recruit's training costs, is encouraging small and medium-size companies to employ more graduates.

The education ministry is also organising job fairs to help unemployed graduates find jobs from several hundred companies. The first takes place in June.

But some careers counsellors have suggested that student unemployment is no longer a temporary phenomenon and that steps should be taken to create permanent job openings for graduates.

Ms Tamaki agrees: "Graduate unemployment is becoming a fact of life. Students are discovering that a university education is no longer the passport to secure employment."

A survey by a leading graduate employment agency revealed that 50,000 graduates from the class of 1995 were still without jobs a year after completing their degree courses.

The dramatic rise in graduate unemployment is encouraging high school students to question the wisdom of opting for an expensive university education. "Higher education is becoming a less popular option for 18-year-olds," says Ms Tamaki. "Universities are facing a sharp decline in enrolments."

In a bid to boost enrolments some universities are introducing career-oriented courses which offer students a better chance of securing jobs.

Universities offering entrepreneurial education are proving particularly popular as more students think about setting up their own businesses rather than look for positions with large companies.

Toyohashi Sozo College near Nagoya in central Japan is just one of the growing number of private universities which are offering entrepreneurial courses with lectures and presentations by leading business executives and entrepreneurs.

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