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Poll finds only 24% of top firms plan to expand new grad recruitment in 2017

Nearly a quarter of major firms in Japan that have set hiring plans for fiscal 2017 intend to recruit more new graduates than in fiscal 2016, but the percentage fell short of the previous year’s figure, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

Of the 110 companies surveyed from Feb. 23 to March 22, 20 of the 83 firms with recruitment plans, or 24 percent, said they will increase hiring of new graduates. In last year’s survey on recruitment for fiscal 2016, which starts Friday, the level was 37 percent.

The latest survey suggests big companies are not too keen on new hires amid an increasingly severe business environment, marked by a slowdown in the Chinese economy, a stronger yen, weak Japanese stocks and falling crude oil prices.

The survey showed that 12 companies, or 14 percent, said they will hire fewer new graduates, compared with 5 percent in the previous survey.

By sector, feedback from the companies was mixed. While firms in the construction, retail and service industries were inclined to hire more new graduates due to labor shortages, others, including financial firms and manufacturers, were more cautious.

Among companies planning to increase hiring are Daiwa House Industry Co. and Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai). But Toshiba Corp., which is grappling with a massive accounting scandal, said it has no plans for recruiting new graduates.

The poll also found that 27 firms were undecided about their hiring plans for fiscal 2017. They include those companies that did not provide a response to this segment of the survey and represented 25 percent of all the respondents, sharply down from more than 40 percent last year.

Around 90 percent of responding companies said they will abide by revised recruitment guidelines of Keidanren, the nation’s most powerful business lobby, which urged member companies to delay the start of interviews with senior-year students from April to June.

Major Japanese companies have customarily begun recruitment of new graduates around a year before their expected graduation in March.

Keidanren changed its new grad recruitment guidelines after universities voiced concern that seniors often spend too much time job hunting and are unable to concentrate on their studies.

But the guidelines may not apply to new graduates hoping to join small and medium-size companies or foreign firms, which do not necessarily stick to that time-line.

In a multiple-answer question about hiring criteria, 65 percent said they valued their prospective employees’ ability to take action, while 45 percent cited personality and a sense of responsibility.