Monday, April 25, 2011

Broken Japan: Students choose failure over uncertainty -- Broken job-hunting system has college seniors retaking year

"Could you please fail me?" As a university lecturer, it is by no means unusual to have seniors drop by to check if they have sufficient credits to graduate. However, I was flabbergasted by this recent visitor who wanted not reassurance - she was on track to graduate - but rather my cooperation in failing her.

The story behind this unexpected request was that since she had yet to secure an offer of employment ("naitei"), she wanted to retake the year; that way she would still be able to apply to companies as a new graduate ("shinsotsu"). Apparently, companies in Japan tend to look more favorably on shinsotsu - however many years it has taken for them to graduate - than on those who have graduated in four years and spent some time acquiring qualifications, skills and experience outside university.

This incident highlights one of the many problems with the Japanese job-hunting ("shukatsu") system. These problems are increasingly being highlighted by the media, prompted by the worst recession in a generation: As of Dec. 1 only 68.85% of final-year students had found jobs. In November last year, there was even a protest march in Shinjuku by students - some holding banners reading "shukatsu no bakayaro" (Job search sucks) - deriding the job-hunting process as a time-consuming farce and denouncing companies for placing unreasonable demands on job-hunters. (read more)