• Kyodo

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Some 22% of major companies in Japan are planning to cut new hires for the business year starting next April compared to the current year, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

The findings indicate that many firms remain cautious about the outlook amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the survey, which covered 110 companies, many of those planning to curb new hires were in sectors hit hard by the pandemic such as transport and tourism, which have seen demand evaporate.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, expect to hire more new graduates, citing business expansion plans and helped by recoveries in the U.S. and Chinese economies.

Major Japanese firms hire new graduates at the start of each fiscal year, often beginning the recruitment process roughly a year in advance.

According to the survey, a total of 24 firms in sectors ranging from materials to energy are scaling back hiring for fiscal 2022. Thirty-seven firms, or 34%, said they will maintain the same levels as fiscal 2021.

Only 19 companies, or 17%, are seeking to increase new hires and 25, or 23%, are undecided.

Some of the firms making no change to their plans for fiscal 2022 had already drastically cut new hires for fiscal 2021, which runs through next March.

For fiscal 2021, about 46% reduced new hires from the previous year while 12% increased hiring. Some 37% stuck to levels close to hiring for fiscal 2020, the survey showed.

The survey was conducted between early March and mid-April. The 110 respondents include Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Sony Group Corp., Japan Airlines Co., Nintendo Co., and Mizuho Financial Group Inc.

Despite the country’s economy emerging from the initial shock of the COVID-19 crisis, economists say it remains on shaky ground — pointing to the divergence in pace of recovery between manufacturers and services providers.

The pandemic has changed how companies look for promising graduates. All but three companies in the survey said they would hold job fairs or conduct interviews online, and 52% are planning to use online tools actively even after the health crisis ends.

The COVID-19 outbreak has also brought changes to the nation’s rigid corporate culture, by enabling more flexible working styles.

A total of 69% of the firms said they would either maintain or expand remote work even after the pandemic subsides.

Asked what challenges teleworking poses, 83% pointed to a lack of communication among workers while 61% referred to a negative impact on training employees.

However, when asked about the impact on labor productivity, 55% picked “no change,” while a combined 31% said productivity had improved.

“We’d like to help our employees improve the balance between their work and private lives,” an energy company said. A firm in the services industry said, “There are types of jobs that are not suitable for teleworking, so we need to see whether it is appropriate.”

A combined 81% already allow or will consider allowing employees to take side jobs. Among the companies, 42% already had such a system in place before the pandemic, 7% introduced it after the COVID-19 crisis and 32% are considering introducing it.

Taking side jobs is seen as beneficial for longer-term career development, but some companies are cautious because employees could end up working excessively long hours or be employed by competitors.

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