Graduate recruitment in Japan looks a bit like a scene from the movie `The Matrix'. Hordes of students dressed in identical black suits and white shirts make the rounds of seminars, tests and interviews. Even as jobs outnumber applicants, these Agent Smiths' fight it out for ` coveted positions at big-name companies, while leaving smaller employers out in the cold.
“Popular firms in industries like finance have seven applicants for one job. For us, we have seven competitors going after one candidate,“ said Shuto Kuriyama, who works in human resources at regional furniture chain Shimachu Co. He was trying to attract students to the company's presentation at a graduate recruitment fair in Chiba near Tokyo this month, while nearby booths for big-name firms were heaving with job seekers.
The low birth rate and slowly recovering economy are keeping Japan's job-toapplicant ratio at a 25-year high, with the figure at 1.43 for January . In Tokyo, there are more than two jobs for every applicant. Small companies are the worst hit by the shortage of workers, but even some better-known employers are gradually changing their rigid hiring and employment practices -and some are begin ning to consider foreigners.
A job fair for overseas students held at Pasona's Tokyo headquarters on March 10 attracted 32 companies -including all the country's major banks. I want to work in Japan,“ said Vietnamese student Tuyet Ngan, 26, dressed in a black skirt suit like her Japanese counterparts. She said she was looking for a job in food or shipping. “Japan has a lot of old people, so I think they need young people.“
With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world, Japan stands in contrast with Europe and the US, where a lack of good jobs has fueled support for politicians who want to crack down on free trade and immigration.Only 3% of Japanese are out of work, compared with 9.6% in the Euro region and 4.7% in the US, the latest figures show. Looking for a job in Japan means not only buying a suit and fine-tuning a resume, but learning the elaborate rituals of the nation's business etiquette, including how to enter a room, bow and sit correctly , and the right levels of polite language to use when speaking to interviewers or clients.
While large employers offer starting salaries little different from their smaller counterparts, the steeper pay trajectory -at least for men -means a foot in the door promises a far higher mid-life income for those who stay the course. Some also offer benefits like companysubsidized accommodation or resort vacations.