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Around 948,000 new graduates from colleges and other schools entered Japan’s workforce Thursday, with companies and government agencies nationwide holding initiation ceremonies.

Yet even those who have been lucky enough to find regular jobs are facing uncertainty.

Companies are tending to shift away from seniority-based wages to systems that supposedly reflect merit and performance, throwing newcomers into a highly competitive environment from the outset.

Many new graduates remained without jobs. The nation’s unemployment rate remains around the 5 percent level, hitting 10 percent for those in the younger age bracket.

According to the latest government survey, new college graduates had an 82.1 percent rate of being accepted for employment as of Feb. 1, marking a slight decrease from a year earlier.

The acceptance rate for new high school graduates was up slightly from the record low posted last year, though individuals in this category are still facing few job offers.

Thirteen new fast-track employees joined the Defense Agency, while hundreds of Self-Defense Forces troops are in Iraq to assist in its reconstruction.

One of them, 23-year-old Masashi Horie, said: “I would like to stake my life on helping to develop an SDF that can meet the ever-changing international situation and the people’s requests.”

One of the 120 new officials at the Foreign Ministry, 26-year-old Chisato Kondo, meanwhile said, “I hope to go to Iraq.”

Addressing the newcomers, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi spoke about the two Japanese diplomats who were assassinated in Iraq last November, and emphasized that Japan is not free from terrorism.

At Toyota Motor Corp. in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, company President Fujio Cho told some 1,650 new employees, “As competition intensifies in the world, we are now in an unprecedented environment where any company that is not vigilant cannot survive.”

Toyota is expected to post a record consolidated net profit above 1 trillion yen for the business year that ended Wednesday. One of the newcomers, 18-year-old Yuki Shigemori said, “I want to develop environmentally friendly engines.”

At Mazda Motor Corp. in Hiroshima, company President Hisakazu Imaki encouraged 433 new employees to reform themselves and the company. “Facing the auto industry now is war, rather than competition.”

Some 280 new graduates joined Mitsubishi Motors Corp., whose offices were raided by police last month in connection with defects that caused wheels to detach from trucks and other large vehicles.

“Although there has been bad news, we would like to do our best to increase good news,” said 22-year-old Yumi Aoki, who made a speech as a representative of the new employees.

At Sanwa Shutter Corp., 21 new employees observed a minute’s silence for a 6-year-old boy who died last week when his head was crushed in a revolving door made by the company’s subsidiary.

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