Japan is in the midst of en masse hiring season, when a wave of college graduates join companies in formal ceremonies after sweating through the job-interview gantlet.

While this year’s ritual has a different look, with COVID-19 forcing many companies to scale back or go online, the goal has long been the same: to kick off what was often a lifetime devoted to one company. In exchange for long hours, personal sacrifices and a prescribed career path, employees would receive job security, a salary and status that rise with age, and the honor of contributing to corporate glory.

But this model that undergirded Japan’s economic rise is slowly eroding. Employers have been whittling away at the system for years, arguing that greater flexibility will improve competitiveness. And now, with the pandemic, pressure is building from the other side: Working from home, people have had more time to rethink their careers and lives. Many want a change.