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The lingering coronavirus pandemic will affect Japanese companies’ hiring of new graduates next year, a recent Jiji Press survey has found.

The number of companies planning to take on more new graduates in spring 2022 than in 2021 stood at only eight, down from 10 for this year and hitting the lowest level in 12 years. The latest survey covered 100 major companies, with 66 of them disclosing their hiring plans.

With the health crisis wreaking havoc on the travel industry, airline group ANA Holdings Inc. will not recruit new graduates except for some job positions, while travel agency JTB Corp. will forgo spring 2022 hiring entirely.

Nineteen companies plan to hire fewer graduates, down from 24 for this year. But the number was higher than 12 in the survey for 2020, conducted before the spread of the new coronavirus and amid labor shortages.

In the latest survey, 34 companies, up from 29, said they have yet to decide on their hiring plans for 2022 or refrained from giving responses, indicating that many firms are cautious about deciding on the number of new graduates they would recruit amid uncertainties.

The number of companies planning to keep hiring at the same levels as those for 2021 came to 37, unchanged from this year.

Railway operators and airlines, hit hard by sharp falls in the number of passengers amid the virus crisis, and insurance companies, which have been forced to shift away from face-to-face marketing activities, as well as some chemical-makers and retailers, plan to drastically scale back the hiring of new graduates.

East Japan Railway Co. plans to reduce new hiring by over 40%. “We’ll retrench hiring to improve productivity as we promote structural reforms in response to the virus crisis,” a JR East official said.

Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. will cut their new graduate hiring by about 20% and nearly 80%, respectively.

Meanwhile, Zensho Holdings Co., the operator of Sukiya restaurants and other chains, plans to expand hiring. “We need to increase our human resources in line with our business expansion and growth,” an official of the firm said.

As for activities for hiring students graduating this spring, carried out last year under the country’s first state of emergency over the virus crisis, 90 companies said they were able to secure the planned number of new recruits.

All companies said they used online methods for 2021 recruiting and plan to continue online activities for spring 2022 hiring as part of efforts to prevent a spread of the virus, boost their presence among students living in rural areas and improve efficiency.

The survey also found that many companies are increasingly concerned about mismatches between employer and employee due to online recruiting.

An official of electronics maker Fujitsu Ltd. said that the lack of face-to-face interactions may lead to companies and students being unable to get to know each other well.

In the survey, 53 of the 100 companies said that the coronavirus crisis will impact their spring 2022 recruiting activities. Of them, textile-maker Toray Industries Inc. saw a sharp decrease in opportunities to talk in person with students, an official said.

Online activities have “made it difficult to stir the interest and attention of students,” an official of Mazda Motor Corp. said.

Meanwhile, 38 firms said they expect no adverse impact from the lack of face-to-face recruiting.

Online activities tend to get students to focus on major companies, making “fortuitous encounters” between companies and students less likely to happen, said Makoto Takahashi, chief editor at job information provider Mynavi Corp.

“Companies should meet students in person at least once, through internship programs or job seminars, for example,” Takahashi said.

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