Japanese graduates see jobs slip away as recession hits

April 2nd, 2009 - 9:44 am ICT by IANS  

By Chie Matsumoto
Tokyo, April 2 (DPA) Tatsuya Kuroishi was kissing the ground to be able to polish his senpai’s, or senior colleague’s, leather shoes Wednesday, his first day on the job, because it meant he had successfully entered the job market during a recession.

At The Columbus Co in Tokyo, new recruits go through a welcoming ceremony, at which the senpai and young recruits take turns polishing each others’ shoes.

“I am glad I’m finally starting work,” the 23-year-old college graduate said at the shoe-polish maker, the last of more than 30 companies he applied for.

During his yearlong job hunt, Kuroishi said he felt Japan’s worst recession in the postwar era take hold around autumn. “It was going smoothly before then,” he said.

He saw many of his friends and fellow graduates shocked when their job offers were revoked after Japanese firms started to suffer the effects of the global economic downturn, he said.

According to Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry estimates, 1,845 college and high school graduates had their job offers retracted because of the slowdown. The number of recruits, as a result, plunged for the first time in five years.

Especially when Japan’s exporters such as electronics and car manufacturers are suffering from record losses and production reductions, opportunities for young job seekers have become scarce.

In February, the nation’s industrial production sank to its lowest level in 26 years, down 9.4 percent compared with the previous month.

Demand for Japanese cars, electronics and other exports has dropped drastically because of recessions in the US and Europe and China’s lagging economy.

Large firms like Toyota Motor Corp and Sony Corp have eliminated thousands of jobs as they cut production.

While Sony already plans to slash the number of college graduates it recruits by 48 percent for the next fiscal year, which begins April 1, 2010, Toyota announced it would halve its number.

In the meantime, the government reported that Japan’s unemployment rate hit its worst level in more than three years.

The unemployment rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 4.4 percent in February from the month before, with 2.99 million people left jobless, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.

Japanese firms Wednesday also opened the first day of the fiscal year with grim news from the Bank of Japan.

The bank’s Tankan index of manufacturer sentiment hit a record low in March. The survey of large firms dropped to minus 58, the lowest number recorded in the Tankan’s 35-year history. The plummeting confidence pointed to lower spending and investment, job losses and a deepening recession.

The worsening index, especially among exporters such as carmakers and steelmakers, confirmed that Japanese companies are suffering an unprecedented recession, said Takahide Kiuchi, chief economist at Nomura Securities Co.

Be it shoe polishing or pencil sharpening, new recruits like Kuroishi are ecstatic just to go through initiation ceremonies and be employed.

The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry said that after yearlong job searches, about 86 percent of Japan’s new college graduates had found jobs by Feb 1 while 87.5 percent of all high school graduates had secured work places by January.

Those recruits are made to feel how much responsibility is being placed on their shoulders as their employers speak of their ambitious demands.

“The real professional can adapt to changes and bring revolution in and outside the company even when the surrounding environment keeps changing,” the president of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ told his recruits at a recent welcoming ceremony.

The president of Japan’s largest telephone company, NTT Communications Corp, demanded his new employees never give up and persistently confront challenges until they prevail.

Graduates following them might have an even tougher time. According to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast, Japan’s economy would contract 6.6 percent this year, a drastic increase from the OECD’s November estimate of a 0.1 percent shrinkage for 2009.

Kiuchi said, however, that before Japan’s economy could recover Japanese firms must adjust their inventories and full-time employees and the overseas economy and global financial conditions must improve.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |