Cabinet members express support for Keidanren proposal to scrap recruitment rules for college graduates

Kyodo, JIJI

Cabinet members voiced their support Tuesday for an idea broached the previous day by the head of Keidanren, Japan’s most powerful business lobby: Scrap guidelines that set the recruitment schedule for new college graduates, starting with those to be hired in spring 2021.

“It is worth thinking about,” Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a news conference, referring to the proposal made Monday by Hiroaki Nakanishi, the head of Keidanren, which is also known as the Japan Business Federation.

Top government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also took a supportive stance toward Nakanishi’s idea as he sought to clarify remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday that were widely perceived as expressing hesitance toward the idea.

“I want the rules to be observed” as they reflect the government’s “request to the business community to delay recruitment activities,” Abe said in response to a question from a college student at an event organized by his Liberal Democratic Party in Tachikawa, Tokyo.

“Companies are moving up recruitment activities to secure good students early, as the employment situation is improving,” Abe said. “But it’s wrong that job hunting comes before studying, which is the prime duty of students.”

Meanwhile, Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, said at a separate news conference that he takes the proposal “positively as a catalyst for discussions.”

Keidanren has set several embargoes: Company information sessions for prospective third-year college students start from March, job interviews targeting fourth-year students take place from June and actual hiring begins in October in order to ensure fairness and give students time to prepare. The schedule is set to remain as is until spring 2020.

In 2015, Keidanren changed the embargo on job interviews from August to June, giving students less time to research the companies they plan to apply for to allow them more time for their studies.

Abolishing the guidelines may mean that companies will move up their recruitment schedule. Smaller firms and foreign companies that are not members of the federation are not subject to the embargo, enabling them to hire freely.

Suga insisted that Abe’s remarks do not contradict Nakanishi’s proposal, saying that the prime minister was emphasizing the need to comply with “the rules by fiscal 2019,” which ends on March 31, 2020.

Suga also said Nakanishi was making a proposal for recruitment activities after fiscal 2020 and that “the issue should be debated by companies and universities by thinking about what is good for students.”

In making the proposal Monday, Nakanishi said,”I don’t feel it’s quite right for Keidanren to oversee hiring schedules.”

He also expressed doubt over current hiring practices, which are unique to Japan and involve the mass hiring of college graduates.

Amid labor shortages in the country, competition for employees among businesses is intensifying. Early hiring by non-Keidanren member firms, including foreign-affiliated companies, is also considered to pose a problem for the guidelines.

In addition, a shortage of venues for holding company information sessions is expected in 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The abolishment of the guidelines may deal a blow to businesses and students because the guidelines serve as a standard for them to plan hiring and job-hunting activities around.

“We need to look at solutions” to such consequences, Nakanishi said, indicating plans to listen opinions from students.

The Federation of Japanese Private Colleges and Universities Associations is pushing to keep the current hiring schedule in place.