Keidanren flips again on recruitment drive

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

The debate over the start of the annual student recruitment drive took another twist Friday as Keidanren Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara said the influential business lobby had officially moved the starting date to June instead of August.

Sakakibara said the decision was made because the first change — from April to August — had actually prolonged the job hunting process, which is having a detrimental effect on academics.

Earlier this year, Keidanren delayed the start of the corporate recruitment blitz to August after the government criticized the annual ritual for interfering with students’ studies. This shortened the job-hunting drive by four months.

The second consecutive change in schedule apparently came in response to growing complaints about prolonged recruiting as voiced by both small businesses and impending graduates.

Despite Keidanren’s push, several large firms and foreign companies did not follow its lead and launched recruiting activities before August.

Small and midsize firms — most of which are not members of the lobby — started recruiting early in hopes of securing better talent. The result has seen the selection procedure for recruits vary from sector to sector while extending over long periods rather than being in sync.

Government surveys released the same day indicated that the August start date was making job-hunting more difficult, with many impending graduates empty-handed at this point.

The survey, jointly conducted by the education and labor ministries, said the ratio of undergraduates who had received a job offer as of Oct. 1 had fallen to 66.5 percent, down 1.9 percent from the same time last year.

The drop was the first since 2010, but an education ministry official said the number could surge to the last year’s level by the time the majority of students graduate in March, thanks to the uptrend in the economy.

According to a separate survey by the Cabinet Office, 45.4 percent of about 1,600 fourth-year undergraduates said the new start date had not improved their prospects, while 57 percent said they were facing even heavier burdens from a prolonged job-hunting regime.

Despite Keidanren’s flip-flop, a group formed to discuss students’ job-hunting problems told a news conference Friday that universities will go along with the decision but warn that greater consideration must be given to academic activities.

The schedule change this year “affected student’s learning environment,” said Tomoya Yoshioka, president of Rikkyo University in Tokyo and head of the group.

Although Keidanren’s plan to push the schedule back to June — when most university students are in the middle of the school year — may further disrupt academic activities, Yoshioka said the schools had little say in the issue.

“Ultimately, it’s the corporate world’s decision,” he said.

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