College grad suicides laid to failed job hunt

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Suicides among young people who fail to land jobs after college have soared 2.5-fold in the past five years as companies pared hiring amid the recession, underlining the difficulty of launching a career if not hired straight out of school.

According to statistics by the National Police Agency, 150 people under 30 committed suicide for this reason last year, nine fewer than in 2010. The figure in 2007 was 60.

Since the Lehman shock of 2008, an increasing number of universities have set up counseling services to address the problem of depression among students, who typically must start their job search as early as their junior year. Amid the recession, being rejected by more than 100 companies is not uncommon among job applicants.

“Many college students are winners in ‘juken jigoku’ (entrance exam hell) and have never experienced failure,” said Yasunori Nonogaki, president of job-search firm Catalysis Co. “Unlike entrance exams for colleges, there are no test scores to refer to in predicting the likelihood of being accepted by companies, and if they fail to get even an interview offer, they feel powerless.”

Of the college students who graduated in March 2011 and looked for work, 91 percent managed to land a job, which is a record low. The high mark was set by graduates in March 2008, at 96.9 percent.

The NPA began tracking reasons for suicide in more detail in 2007 in an effort to reduce their overall number, which has exceeded 30,000 annually for the past 14 years. Until 2006, reasons such as “failure to land a job,” “lost job,” “bankruptcy” and “debts” were lumped together under a single category: “economic and life problem.”