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More than 850,000 recruits nationwide marked their first day of work Monday in an improving job market stemming from economic growth and the looming massive retirement of baby boomers.

Many of them attended initiation ceremonies held by their employers — companies and the central and local governments — on the first business day of fiscal 2007.

“We must be a front-runner in terms of quality that can contribute to society, not in terms of sales units or sales value,” Toyota Motor Corp. President Katsuaki Watanabe told about 1,700 new employees at Japan’s No. 1 automaker in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture.

In the 2006 business year, which ended Saturday, Toyota hired 3,163 workers. For 2007 it plans to hire 3,508.

A larger number of companies have come to feel they are short on human resources, with the index on corporate perceptions of full-time worker shortages rising to its highest level in almost 15 years in February, according to the labor ministry’s quarterly survey released last month.

A survey on recruitment by the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) found that 55.4 percent of companies polled increased hiring for the fourth straight year.

The ratio of companies that thought the labor market was tighter this year than last was 88.6 percent, up 13.8 percentage points from a year earlier.

But working conditions have changed over the past decade. Once the employment system featured career-long employment and a seniority-based wage system. Now, many companies have adopted merit-based pay and higher labor mobility is promoted.

Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., which was exempted last month from a penalty for accounting fraud committed by its parent firm, Nikko Cordial Corp., issued a welcoming message to 850 recruits from its president, Mikio Kitabayashi, saying the brokerage has “overcome” the scandal.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki meanwhile told new bureaucrats of the Cabinet Office to “engage in work with a lofty ideal and avoid the bad habits of turf-minded bureaucrats who work only for the interests of their own ministries and agencies.”

In Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, which was hit by a magnitude-6.9 earthquake last month, most of the 15 municipal government recruits attending the 9:30 a.m. orientation were in jerseys, jeans and other casual attire to be able to go out immediately to help quake victims.

Recruits of the Ishikawa Prefectural Government are slated to visit quake-hit areas in two groups Wednesday and April 12 as part of their training program, officials said.

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