EDITORIAL: 'Ice age' for job-hunters
Japanese university students graduating next spring face an extremely frosty job climate that is often described as a "super ice age."
The ratio of graduating students with job offers has fallen to a record low. This year, one in six students finished their studies to find themselves jobless new graduates. Next year stands to be even worse.
Most students attend university with the hope of finding a worthwhile job to earn a livelihood and establish a foothold in society. The job crunch is blighting their hopes.
Companies are tightening their hiring standards and often end their recruitment activities even before meeting their targets. The situation has created a growing inequality in access to employment between the so-called winning and losing groups.
A recent survey of universities by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training found that the proportion of students who graduated this spring without a job was 30 percent or higher at many new private universities and smaller institutions.
Officials at university employment counseling centers say students who are having difficulty in finding work often don't know what kind of career they want to pursue and can't write effective job application forms.
Frustrated, a growing number of students are simply giving up on their job search.
The economic downturn is not entirely to blame for the tough job market facing university graduates. These employment woes are an unfortunate combination of several structural factors that should be addressed.
The percentage of high school students enrolling in universities now exceeds 50 percent, up from 25 percent two decades ago.
Despite this new diversity of students in universities, Japan's job market has not adjusted to the change.
Universities today appear to be failing at their responsibility in educating students to help them identify career aspirations and preparing them to enter the work force.
The business community also has failed to devise a more flexible approach to hiring in line with changes in both the quality and quantity of students.
A society that cannot offer hope for young people has no future. Every possible effort should be made to fix the problem.
Job fairs jointly organized by small and medium-size companies seeking new graduates are gaining popularity.
But have these efforts, intended to widen the perspective of students focused on landing a job at a large company and match them with smaller businesses, really produced the expected effects?
Additionally, there has been little attention to fostering cooperation between universities and Hello Work job centers, which tend to be avoided by university students.
How much effort have universities been making to take advantage of the series of job-creation measures adopted by the government to help graduates find work?
Clearly, more should be done at the front line of support for young people in search of employment.
Then, there should be a society-wide campaign to correct the structural mismatch between school education and the job market.
Career counseling to enable students to develop the mind-set needed to join the work force should be firmly incorporated into the education system.
As well, there should be multiple paths from university to the job market.
Companies, for their part, need to urgently improve their recruitment processes that undermine the purpose of university education to help students develop their own abilities. These processes have grown longer over years, forcing students to start job-hunting activities earlier in their college life.
Businesses should instead adopt a recruitment approach more focused on the academic achievements of students.
They should also break with the tradition of hiring graduates for full-time jobs all at once so that young job-seekers can have more than one chance to get hired.
The government, academic world and business community have begun discussions over this challenge.
Instead of simply keeping up a front by announcing empty agreements or futile ethical codes, they need to come up with truly effective reforms.