• Kyodo

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This year’s recruits went to work at their new jobs for the first time Monday, the start of fiscal 2019 and the beginning of stricter overtime restrictions.

“I would like (this ministry) to lead Japan’s social security and working style,” Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto said in an address to 180 new recruits. “Do not feel small and please believe that you’re supporting the country through your role here.”

The ministry, which has come under fire for releasing faulty job data for over a decade, played a major role in drafting a labor reform law setting a legal cap on long working hours that came into force Monday.

While the government was unveiling the name of Japan’s new Imperial era, with Crown Prince Naruhito set to ascend the throne on May 1, many new graduates were attending welcome ceremonies organized by their employers across the nation.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s 1,492 new hires participated in a ceremony wearing work uniforms at its head office in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture.

“You can become anything you want to be if you put your mind and effort into it,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda told them. “Be a treasure of the company and if possible you should be someone who will be valued by society.”

Japan Airlines Co. group companies welcomed around 1,960 new employees at its Haneda airport aircraft hangar in Tokyo, with President Yuji Akasaka emphasizing how every one of them is responsible for passengers’ lives.

JAL has been under scrutiny since one of its pilots was arrested by British police last October for being around 10 times over the legal alcohol limit under Britain’s aviation law, which was followed by a string of revelations involving crew members and alcohol.

Professional figure skater and Olympic medalist Mao Asada made a surprise appearance at the JAL ceremony, referring to the announcement of the new era name, Reiwa.

“Everyone here was born in the current Heisei Era, including me,” she said. “I’d like to embark upon the new one with a fresh start.”

Seven new recruits started their jobs in the town of Okuma, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

“I hope you thrive and become part of this town’s recovery,” Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe told them.

According to official government data, 91.9 percent of new job seekers, a record high proportion since such surveys began, had found jobs as of Feb. 1 ahead of their graduation in March, showing a continued improvement in the labor market for the eighth straight year.

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