The job-hunting season for university students went into full swing on Dec. 1 as major enterprises started recruiting students who are scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2014. Students are likely to increase their chances of finding good jobs if they explore employment opportunities at small and medium companies as well as at the major companies traditionally viewed as the most desirable employers.

Students and companies should strive to make the best of the opportunities for both during the recruitment period. It is hoped that public employment security offices and universities will do their best to help students find jobs most suitable for them.

The employment situation for university students was extremely difficult in the periods that followed the burst of the economic bubble in the early 1990s and the Lehman Brothers shock of 2008. But the recent situation looks slightly better. According to the labor and education ministries, 63.1 percent of university students scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2013 found jobs as of Oct. 1 — an increase of 3.2 percentage points from the same date in 2011 and an increase for two consecutive years. But it must be remembered that nearly 40 percent of them have not found work.

The corresponding job finding figure for high school students was only 41 percent as of the end of September — a decrease of 0.5 percentage points from a year before. But the number of jobs available for high school students due to graduate next spring is increasing in the prefectures hit by the 3/11 disasters — a rise of 38.4 percent in Aomori, 52 percent in Iwate, 81.9 percent in Miyagi and 76.4 percent in Fukushima.

As for university students, the labor and education ministries say that the number of job offers by major companies is increasing and the number of job offers by small and medium companies appears to have stopped falling. But it is uncertain whether this trend will continue. There is a fear that companies may start decreasing the number of job offers as the condition of the economy worsens. Some major manufacturing companies, especially electronic makers, are laying off employees in large numbers.

Companies will likely be very selective in hiring students. An estimated 157,000 graduating university students have yet to find jobs, and the search for jobs is taking a toll on many.

The new government to be inaugurated later this month should realize that it has a responsibility to help create new markets and employment opportunities. It will be indispensable for it to work out measures to help stimulate the growth in such industrial sectors as medical and nursing care services, health industry, eco-friendly industry, tourism and agriculture.

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