job hunting
Because of the combination of the increasing number of college graduates and a sluggish economy, college education no longer guarantees a high-status job. Only the best colleges can provide educational credentials that reward their graduates with good careers. Due to the tight job market, only 55.0 percent of 545,000 college graduates in 2003 obtained full-time jobs. Another 11.4 percent of college graduates entered graduate schools (the largest such group on record), and 1.5 percent (8,000) accepted medical internships. In addition, 4.6 percent obtained a temporary job, and 22.5 percent neither found a job nor went to graduate school. The remaining 5 percent either died or are unaccounted for (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). It is a very serious problem that more than 22.5 percent of college graduates, approximately 123,000 graduates, cannot find a job or did not continue onto graduate school, and that another 4.6 percent found only part-time jobs. They are so-called “freeters,” young, single part-time workers or graduate job seekers, mostly living with their parents. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Among college graduates who found jobs, 33.0 percent of men and 32.7 percent of women were employed as professional or technical workers (including 25.7 percent of men and 8.1 percent of women employed as technical workers, 2.0 percent of men and 8.1 percent of women as health and medical workers, and 2.3 percent of men and 6.7 percent of women employed as teachers); 27.4 percent of men and 41.2 percent of women were employed as clerical workers; and 27.8 percent of men and 17.9 percent of women were employed as sales clerks (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

Graduate enrollment is 3 percent of the total higher education enrollment compared with 11 percent in the U.S. Only 6 percent of college seniors continue on to graduate school, compared to 15 percent in the United States and 38 percent in Britain.

More and more college graduates are continuing on to graduate schools. Some do it get better credentials. Others do put off finding a real job. College graduates have traditionally started working for companies immediately after graduating. The number of Ph.D. candidates doubled between 1991 and 2001. The number of people getting Masters degrees has also risen dramatically.

Hiring New Employees, Difficulty Getting a Job. See Labor, Economics

Jon Hunting and Looking for Work After University

University students often begin their search for work a year or so before they graduate. Around April 1 has traditionally been the time when university senior began their search for work but in recent years it has been getting earlier and earlier. The early job hunt is said to be a distraction to students’ academic work.

Universities are trying to do more to help students and former students find jobs. Some universities such as Kyushu Sangyo University in Fukuoka offers mentoring programs in which seniors who already have jobs assist juniors and other students looking for work. Others like Kanazawa Institute of Technology, have set up cheap bus service, with tickets to Tokyo costing as little as $17 and tickets Osaka costing as little as $11 to Osaka to help students get to job fairs and interviews without going broke.

In 1997, the 1987 regulation that set October 1 as an official starting date for offering employment to graduates was repealed because many companies issued unofficial job offers to prospective graduates much earlier than the official starting date of recruitment. Some companies recruit employees all year around. Prospective recruits collect information about job openings from the Internet, information magazines and classified ads, the school’s career placement office, alumni and professors, as well as from family and friends. Then they send in an application and take an exam or interview at the company. After several interviews, they receive an unofficial job offer. They choose one company, and sign an employment contract. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Employment in large corporations is very competitive because these positions promise job security, better pay, and more generous benefits. Educational credentials from prestigious universities help in securing job offers from large corporations. Corporations with 1,000 employees or more advertised 106,000 new jobs in March 2000 to 218,000 eager college seniors. In contrast, medium and small-sized corporations sought 301,000 new employees, but only 194,000 college seniors were interested in those jobs (Keizai Kikakucho- 1999:61). ~

Difficulty Getting a Job in Japan

In the 1980s, 90 percent of the high school graduates who didn’t go to university went straight into stable, good-paying jobs. In the 1990s, 90 percent were able to get jobs but the jobs weren’t as good as they used to be. By the early 2000s, only 75 percent were able to get jobs of any kind. Half of those that got jobs were forced into part-time or temporary jobs with no benefits and starting salaries of $1,000, down from $1,200 in the mid 1990s.

University graduates have found it equally difficult too find jobs. In the early 2000s, only about a third of college graduates were able to find full-time employment. Many were forced take jobs normally taken by high school graduates or even part time work that even high school drop outs used to thumb their nose at.

The official unemployment figure for young men in 2002 was 10.7 percent Many think the true figure was double that. Companies have not been hiring as many people as they used to and are often reluctant to lay off unproductive workers to make way for new workers. In the early 1990s, Nissan hired 2,500 high school graduates every spring. In the late 1990s and early 2000s they didn’t hire anyone.

Japanese College Students Face New Job Hunt Schedule

In December 2012, Yukari Akahane and Aya Someki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Job hunting officially kicked off for university students set to graduate in spring of 2014. This marks the second year in which company recruitment sessions began in December, later than the previous start date in October. Since last year's change, universities have strengthened their support systems by moving up their seminars for job seekers and their parents. [Source: Yukari Akahane and Aya Someki, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 2, 2012 +]

“Reflecting today's harsh job climate and continuing economic downturn, students flooded the sessions from early morning, motivated to start their searches as early as possible. A long line of about 200 university students had already formed for a recruitment session in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, before doors opened at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. A junior, 20, at Tokyo Jogakkan College, said: "I attended a job-hunting seminar sponsored by my college before summer vacation, and I've prepared as much as I could, including by listening to the experiences of alumni. [As the job-hunting period now begins in December,] I was able to concentrate on studying a foreign language and for a certification exam." Meanwhile, a 21-year-old male student said: "I haven't decided what kind of job I want. I feel depressed." In 2011, when the job-hunting period was shortened for the first time, many students found themselves unable to cope with the situation and gave up along the way, according to sources. +

“The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) revised its recruitment guidelines in March 2011. It postponed its member companies' annual activities, such as accepting online job applications and holding recruitment sessions, until December of junior year. The aim of the change is to secure time for students to focus on their studies. The notification date for companies to select students through job interviews and exams is April 1 of senior year. +

“A 21-year-old senior at a private women's university in Tokyo who faced December last year without having sufficiently researched companies, said, "I couldn't find a job I wanted [last year]." She plans to give up looking a job this year and instead continue to graduate school. According to a July survey by Mynavi Corp., a job information provider, targeting university students who will graduate from a university next spring, about 25 percent responded that they still had not found a job that they wanted [as of July]. About 75 percent responded, "It's necessary to have opportunities to think about all the various industries and professions [before the beginning of company recruitment sessions]." Mynavi editor Takashi Mikami said: "Last year, a lot of students didn't understand that they were allowed to start job hunting before companies started their recruitment activities in December. So those who started researching industries early had an extra advantage." +

Shorter Job-Hunting Season Creating Problems

Beginning in 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, the time at which students can begin visiting corporations for job interviews was pushed back from October to December at the suggestion of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren). The business group made the suggestion to allow students, who normally start job hunting in their junior year, to focus on their studies for another two months. Major corporations continue to hire new graduates in April. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2012]

“This year's job hunters are having an especially difficult time as the number of job briefings offered by major companies continues to decrease amid the economic slowdown. Compounding the students' difficulties is the fact that the shorter job-hunting season narrows their choices of companies to visit. The situation next year is expected to be even more difficult. The Hosei University Career Center in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, was recently crowded with students seeking private consultations. Students had to wait in line for about 90 minutes at the busiest time. According to the center, 6,542 students visited the center in January and February, up 10 percent from the previous year. An official at the center said, "[The increase is] because students are feeling impatient as their job-hunting period has been shortened.”

“Atsuhiko Tokunaga, 21, a senior at the university, decried the shortened job-hunting period, saying: "I'd like to hunt for a job from a broader perspective, but I don't have enough time to look into corporations outside a narrow focus." Yotaro Hayashi, 21, another student at the university, said it was hard to attend job briefings because some companies hold them on the same day. "It's also financially difficult," he said, "because briefings are concentrated at certain periods, and that prevents me from taking a part-time job.”

“According to a survey by Mynavi Corp., a job information service company, university students contacted an average of 57.9 companies hoping to attend their briefings by the end of February this year, down more than 20 percent from the number in the same period last year among seniors who graduated this spring. "The number of briefings that students actually attend is also decreasing," an official of the company said.

How Jobs Are Secured by University Graduates in Japan

Employers select applicants primarily based on their educational credentials, namely the rank of the college they graduated from. Therefore, graduates from prestigious colleges are more likely to be matched with prestigious large corporations, while graduates from less selective colleges are more likely to obtain employment in smaller companies. Employers regard educational credentials, along with age, sex, and social origin as the most effective means of measuring and evaluating job applicants. Employers seek potential rather than specific skills because most corporations have in-house training for new hires. According to the 1998 Recruit Co. survey, corporations hire an employee based on personality (81 percent); future potential (71.6 percent); enthusiasm (71.1 percent); aptitude test scores (41.1 percent); personality test scores (35.9 percent); language skills (24.9 percent); academic major (24.5 percent); and GPA (23.5 percent) (Keizai Kikakucho- 1999:62-63). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Employers use school connections and alumni networks to recruit recent graduates of prestigious universities. Many large corporations have already established institutional networks with particular schools, and reserve a quota for graduates from “designated” schools. It is well known that many science and engineering majors in prestigious universities obtain jobs through recommendations by the faculty and the departments, which have institutional connections with certain corporations. ~

The 1981 Survey on Occupational Mobility and History found that Japanese males in large companies were most likely recruited through school connections (Brinton and Kariya 1998:192). From a 1987 case study of male humanities and social science majors, a company recruited their new employees from “designated schools,” through alumni recruiters, and by judging their educational credentials (Takeuchi 1995:121-153). ~

Educational credentials count for recruitment and entry-level training. However, they do not have much effect on the later stages of people’s careers. An analysis of employment records in a large finance and insurance company shows that college credentials have no significant effect on the probability of reaching lower or middle management, because almost everybody is automatically promoted on the basis of seniority. The standing of the college only begins to have an effect on promotions to upper-level jobs such as the department head (bucho-) twenty years after college graduation. However, job performance and productivity, not a 20-year-old diploma, most likely determines the promotion (Ishida, Spilerman and Su 1997:874, 879). ~

In addition to educational credentials and school networks, nepotism is common. Many applicants use a personal network among family, friends, and/or acquaintances to obtain employment in private companies and even in public organizations. Even the appointment of civil servants and public teachers is a closed system, and the scores of written exams are not part of the public record. ~

Difficulty Finding a Job After Graduation in Japan

University students sometimes describe the job choices waiting for them after graduation as a barren "ultra-ice age." A record low university graduates received job offers in 2010. As of October 2010, 57.6 percent of university graduates due to graduate the following spring had not been able to find jobs, an all-time low for that time of the year.

In the summer of 2010, 20 percent of recent university graduates had not secured or job or had enrolled in further education according to the Education Ministry. An estimated 79,000 university seniors who couldn’t find jobs decided delay graduation and a repeat a year of college even though they had already finished their studies. Some blamed this trend on the custom of large corporation hiring students en masse in March, leaving students who can’t find jobs few options other than waiting around until next year.

Martin Fackler wrote in the New York Times, Nagisa Inoue, a senior at Tokyo’s Meiji University, said she was considering paying for a fifth year at her university rather than graduating without a job, an outcome that in Japan’s rigid job market might permanently taint her chances of ever getting a higher-paying corporate job. That is because Japanese companies, even when they do offer stable, regular jobs, prefer to give them only to new graduates, who are seen as the more malleable candidates for molding into Japan’s corporate culture. And the irony, Ms. Inoue said, is that she does not even want to work at a big corporation. She would rather join a nonprofit environmental group, but that would also exclude her from getting a so-called regular job.” [Source: Martin Fackler, New York Times, October 16, 2010]

In 2009, the Welfare Ministry responded to the situation of graduates being unable to find work by advising employers to recognize someone as a new graduate for up to three years after graduation. It also offers subsidies of up to 1.8 million yen, or about $22,000 per person, to large companies that offer so-called regular jobs to new graduates.

One of the problems experts say is the match between students and firms. Many students only want government jobs or to work with big well-established companies, and many small and mid-size firms with good business performances have a hard time filling their positions. According to a 2010 survey by Recruit Co, companies with 300 employees or less offered 300,000 jobs but only 70,000 students said they wanted to work for such companies.

A survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun in May 2011 found that big-name firms were planning to hire more recent graduates. Of the 105 companies surveyed, 74 said they planned to hire 30,000 graduates in the spring of 2012. Company representatives said the decision was based on an improved business outlook and efforts by the companies to boost global business.

In February 2011, a 22-year-old student apparently upset by his inability to find a job, tried to commit suicide by grabbing the wheel of a bus traveling on an expressway and causing the bus to overturn. The two drivers and ten passengers sustained only minor injuries.

Japanese Female College Graduates Have a Much Harder Time Finding Jobs

Female college graduates have a much harder time than male college graduates obtaining a full-time job, especially during economic downturns. Most female college students major in humanities and social science, and do not have marketable technical and vocational skills. Teaching jobs used to be the most popular career among female college graduates. However, in 1995, only 7.6 percent of college-educated women obtained teaching positions (Tanaka 1997:136). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Many female students seek employment in private corporations, where they face confront statistical discrimination (Thurow 1975). Company records show that female workers tended to quit their jobs earlier than male workers, mainly because of marriage or childbirth. Because of their family commitments, married women or mothers cannot work overtime or accept transfers as easily as male workers. According to the 1995 SSM survey, only 31.8 percent of college-educated female employees who had worked before marriage, with the exception of teachers, remained in the work force when their youngest child were born (Tanaka 1997:135). ~

The 1997 amendment to the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination against women in recruitment, hiring, assignments, and promotions. Employers who violate the law face legal penalties. The law promotes “positive action” to narrow the gender gap between male and female workers. Even with anti-discrimination laws, equality in recruitment and working conditions of female employees has come very slowly. ~

Job Prospects Improve for Japanese College Graduates

In March 2013, Jiji Press reported: “Among job-seeking university students who will graduate in the spring of 2013, 81.7 percent had secured informal job offers as of February 1, up 1.2 percentage points from a year before, a survey by the education and labor ministries showed. The rate rose for the second straight year, but was still short of levels before the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008. The job-securing rate for new high school graduates who hope to enter the workforce this spring rose 1.9 points year on year to 88.3 percent as of Jan. 31, up for the third consecutive year, a separate survey by the labor ministry found. The figure was above 90 percent in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the three northeastern prefectures hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, on the back of strong reconstruction demand. [Source: Jiji Press, March 16, 2013]

In November 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The percentage of university students set to graduate next spring who have received unofficial job offers stood at 63.1 percent as of Oct. 1, up 3.2 percentage points from a year earlier, marking improvement for two years in a row, according to a survey by the labor and education ministries. The rate for high school students slightly dropped, but those for students at junior colleges, technical colleges and vocational schools were higher than in the previous year. An official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said, "The situation is about to come out of its worst period since the Lehman shock." [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 28, 2012]

“The proportion of university students who found jobs was estimated by the survey targeting 62 universities nationwide. The rate for male students was 63.0 percent, up 1.3 points from the same time last year, while that for female students was 63.2 percent, up 5.5 points. The rate for students with humanities majors was 62.4 percent, up 2.7 points, while that of students with science majors was 66.8 percent, up 6.2 points.

By region, the rate in Kanto was 67.2 percent, the highest. It was 66.4 percent in Kinki and 54.9 percent in Kyushu. The rate in the Chugoku/Shikoku region was lower than the previous year, at 49.5 percent. The official recruiting period for university students has shortened by two months since last fiscal year. But the ministry said the ratio of job offers to applicants rose from 1.23-to-1 to 1.27-to-1. Students' increased interest in small and midsize companies was given as a reason for the rise.

After the job offer rate hit 57.6 percent in 2010, the worst since the survey using the current method began in 1996, it increased by 2.3 points in 2011 and by another 3.2 points this year. The ministry said the rate changed depending on employment by small and midsize companies, and it is not optimistic about such improvements continuing.

The rate for two-year college students was 27.4 percent, up 4.7 points, while technical college students were at 96.2 percent, up 2.3 points, and vocational school students were at 42.6 percent, up 2.4 points. On the other hand, as of the end of September, the rate for high school students was 41 percent, down 0.5 point.

Jobs on the Minds of Entering University Students

In January 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A growing number of university entrance examinees are aiming to join universities that will help them acquire a teachers license or other vocational qualifications likely to improve their chances of finding a job amid uncertain economic times. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 16, 2011]

Kota Matsuura, 19, said he wants to study law and become a public servant. "At any rate, I want to be a public servant," he said . "Civil servant jobs are stable even in a recession, and are quite popular among my friends." Misato Toyoda, 18, said she wants to get a qualification she can use as a child care worker. "When considering the universities I want to apply to, I closely checked if I can get a qualification and if graduates of those universities have good employment rates," Toyoda said.

Ippei Maeda, 18, who took the test at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, said his first choice is a state-run university in Kanto. "I heard there are more job opportunities in Kanto than in Kyushu," he said. "That's one reason why I chose the university." The number of university students receiving tentative job offers before they graduate has been particularly low in Kyushu.

At Nagoya University, Masaki Sato said his first choice is an education department of a state-run university. Sato, 19, hopes to become a physical education teacher. He said competition among job seekers on the employment front and concern about the gloomy economic situation were reasons for his choice. "A school teacher is a stable job. I want to be a good teacher," he said. Besides science, engineering, agriculture and medical departments, university departments that offer qualifications as teachers or nurses have received considerable interest, according to several major cram schools.

More women turning to science. Science courses have tended to be dominated by male students, but venues conducting the National Center Test said more female examinees than usual were among the test-takers this year. Some universities have even set aside rooms exclusively for women students to make them feel even more welcome.

Japanese Female Graduates Get More Jobs

Among those who graduated from universities this past spring, 66.4 percent of women found full-time employment, surpassing 57.7 percent of new male graduates who secured regular work, according to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey.The survey showed that women tend to make more realistic choices than men, not restricting themselves to their first-choice companies, but rather looking for jobs patiently. [Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 7,2011]

Among newly graduated females, 71.6 percent of those from home economics-related departments found regular jobs, following those from medical and dental faculties at 80.5 percent. As most graduates from the medical and dental departments are usually employed for training at a clinic after graduation for a set period of time, females from the former category hold the de facto top position.

Japanese female graduates appear to have more of a “never give up” attitude. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “By mid-June, major companies had almost finished hiring new graduates for fiscal 2012. However, more than 100 students gathered at a job fair hosting about 30 companies in a hall at Chuo University in Hachioji, Tokyo. Most of them were female students in black skirts and jackets.

"I wanted to work in 'sogoshoku' [career position] in a financial company as my top priority. But now I'm not sticking to sogoshoku, and want to take a look at companies in other industries. Small and midsize companies are also acceptable," a 21-year-old female senior student in the economics department of the university said. Another 21-year-old female senior student in the commerce department said, "I want to get an informal appointment, even in the 'ippanshoku' [nonmanagerial position] category." Yukio Tonomura, head of the career development center at Chuo University, said: "Women are enthusiastic about finding a job, and they also have a flexible way of thinking. They had a more difficult time finding jobs [than men], so they haven't given up even at this time of the year."

A similar situation has been seen at other universities. A female senior student from the literature department of the University of Tokyo initially wanted to work in an advertising company, but she decided to look for a job among manufacturers. Continuing the trend, a 22-year-old female senior in the humanities and economics department of Kochi University sought a sogoshoku job. However, she finally got an informal appointment after expanding her choices by including the ippanshoku category. "I wanted to find a job before my graduation [next spring] anyway," she said.

The persistence and flexibility of female graduates have been remarkable.According to Keiko Hirano, a researcher at Bunkahoso Career Partners' job information research center, "Women tend to think they should avoid graduating unemployed in order to seek for jobs more suitable for them. In consideration of the future possibility of marriage and childbirth, they don't want to waste time. As a result, they start looking for jobs early and seriously."

Parents and Universities Help Students Hunt for Jobs

According to a survey by Recruit Co. in the spring of 2011, 85.4 percent of students seeking a job said they consulted friends and acquaintances about job-related concerns, followed by 42 percent who said they turned to their parents. The second group was then asked what kind of help they received from parents; 39.2 percent cited self-analysis, followed by 26.3 percent who pointed to help filling in application forms. Among other answers, 7.1 percent said their parents helped with job fairs and 3.4 percent said they helped them contact companies. [Source: Kimiyasu Ishizuka, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 17, 2011]

“Kimiyasu Ishizuka wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Now that it has become common for parents and children to engage in job-hunting activities together, more and more universities are starting support programs for parents. In 2009, the career support department of Otemae University in Hyogo Prefecture published a booklet for parents supporting their children's job-hunting activities and handed it out to parents of students, mostly juniors. The booklet explains meanings of terms thought to be unfamiliar to average parents, such as "internship" and "SPI (synthetic personality inventory)." It also advises parents on how to respond to their children's efforts, such as urging them to encourage their children, especially when good results elude them.

“From three years ago or so, we suddenly started receiving more and more inquiries from parents," said a staffer of the department. He said many of the inquiries are about what kind of support the university can give to students and what kind of qualifications would be useful for employment. At a job fair at Kanazawa Seiryo University in Kanazawa in February, the university let parents attend some of the sessions at the job-recruiting event with their children. Since it proved very popular with the parents, the university intends to do it again next year.

“Parents are well aware that they're the ones who pay their children's tuition, so they don't hesitate to make these inquiries to universities," said Hitomi Okazaki, the editor of Rikunabi, a job information Web site for students. "Therefore, universities have to focus on the careers that parents are keen on." For universities, responding to parents' desire for them to support students' job-seeking activities is becoming an important means of survival today, when the population of would-be students is falling.

Jobs for Japanese Students Returning from Abroad

The number of students going overseas to study at universities has been declining in recent years, with many holding back out of fear they will not be able to find a job when they return. However, is it true that studying abroad could impede their job-hunting efforts? The Yomiuri Shimbun has looked into how companies view the matter. [Source: Hitomi Seki, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 16, 2011]

Many major Japanese companies recruit newly graduating students around April to May, when students studying abroad are not in Japan. This, however, does not necessarily mean overseas students are at a disadvantage.

Companies are keen to adapt to the globalization of business activities, so many of them prize students who have gained foreign language abilities and international perspectives by studying abroad. An increasing number of companies, therefore, have facilitated acceptance of job applications from students returning from overseas.

In addition to conventional recruitment methods, many firms hold recruitment exams in summer and autumn, and some even recruit around the year. Furthermore, to make it possible for students studying overseas to join them after graduation, a number of companies now allow newcomers to start in autumn, while others allow them to start anytime in the year.

Lack of Interest in Japan’s New Graduate Schools

Miki Tanikawa wrote in the New York Times, “In a country with a shrinking population, the latest trend in Japan’s higher education is something of a mystery: the number of universities and academic programs is rising. The growth is sharpest for professional graduate schools, where the number has soared from practically zero in 2003, when accreditation began, to 130 now, in fields ranging from law and business to clinical counseling and education. But there is one obvious problem: not enough students are signing up. The Japanese government says that nearly half of professionally oriented programs, aside from law schools, have yet to fill their stated student capacity. And the problem has been especially acute in graduate programs in education.[Source: Miki Tanikawa, New York Times, September 26, 2010]

In Japan, the need for graduate programs seems undeniable: lifetime employment is crumbling, employers are committing less time and money to training young workers, and social problems are becoming more complex, increasing the need for experts. Yet Interest in many professional schools has been less than overwhelming, said Kenichi Yoshida, an executive senior consultant at the Japan Research Institute in Tokyo, which is affiliated with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. “Japanese universities tend to roll out programs without having a good grasp of the needs in the marketplace,” said Mr. Yoshida, who watches Japan’s higher education. “When they start a program, they assume there will be students.”

Setting up graduate programs in education was the universities’ answer to a growing dissatisfaction with the primary and secondary school system. “We are faced with a number of gripping issues in schools like bullying, truancy, and falling grades,” said Tetsuya Kajisa, the president of Hyogo University of Teacher Education near Osaka. “As society and community change, issues facing schools have become more complicated and the solutions require higher expertise.”

In 2008, with the blessing and the accreditation of the Ministry of Education, 19 universities launched professionally oriented graduate programs in teacher education, seeking approximately 700 students in total. Seven more schools introduced similar programs a year later. During the first year, 8 of the 19 original institutions fell short of the target enrollment — some by far: two schools managed to recruit only half of the target numbers of students. A ministry assessment completed shortly afterward said the schools lacked proper marketing methods and had failed to clearly state the practical benefits of receiving graduate diplomas.

By 2006 things were looking up for job seekers. Jobs fairs were offering lots of jobs but employers were being more picky about getting good candidates.

Ninety-Four 94 Percent of New Graduates Find Jobs in 2012

In May 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The employment rate for university students who graduated this spring increased 2.6 percentage points to 93.6 percent as of April 1, marking the first improvement in four years, according to the labor and education ministries. Officials of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry cited companies' strong hiring and government efforts to help students find jobs at midsized firms as reasons behind the improvement. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, May 16, 2012]

“According to the ministries, about 356,000 university graduates had found employment, but about 25,000 graduates did not receive any job offers. The employment rate of male graduates was 94.5 percent, up 3.4 percentage points from the previous year, while that of female graduates was 92.6 percent, up 1.7 percentage points.

“Hiring interest at large companies was stronger this year due to signs of economic recovery recorded before the March 11, 2011, disaster. According to Mynavi Corp., a job information firm, 19.7 percent of listed companies increased hires of graduates majoring in humanities from the previous year, while 23.9 percent increased hires of graduates majoring in science.

“As of the end of March, the education ministry announced that 94.8 percent of high school students who graduated this spring had found jobs, up 1.6 percentage points.

Image Sources: 1) 6) Jun from Goods from Japan 2) 3) Wikipedia 4) Tokyo Pictures 5) Guven Peter Witteveen 7) Ray Kinnane

Text Sources: Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~; Education in Japan website ; Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated Japan 2014

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