One in five college students contemplates suicide during the job-hunting process, according to a poll of students conducted in July by the nonprofit group Lifelink.
Among students in four-year universities, graduate schools and vocational colleges, the stress from job hunting has become so extreme in recent years that many students find themselves isolated, anxious and in such weak mental health that they consider suicide.
According to police statistics, job hunting was listed as the reason for suicide in 149 cases last year, more than the double the number in 2007.
However, that number understates the reality. Even though the total number of suicides in Japan has decreased in recent years, the number of people in their early 20s who commit suicide has continued to rise. The pressure on students to secure full-time employment within a short time is much too high.
Part of the problem stems from a disconnection between the desire to find a job and the distrust students hold of Japanese businesses and society in general. The overall decline in job opportunities for graduates has made competition worse than ever before.
The Lifelink poll found that 69 percent of students felt Japan is a society where honesty and hard work are not rewarded. At the same time, though, 87 percent said they still want to become full-time employees after graduation.
Part of their distrust stems from the way many companies still appear biased toward high-ranking universities, despite claims to the contrary.
In short, students feel desperate and powerless.
They also feel isolated. Though students talk together with other job-hunting friends and remain highly connected on the Internet, most suffer when their search does not go smoothly.
The fear that they will be left behind increases students’ anxiety and 80 percent of students report that their anxiety doesn’t ease even after they’ve found work. No employee should have to start their working life in such a state of mind.
Companies should make changes to their system. Creating high anxiety in job seekers is not going to help companies find the most appropriate employees. In fact, just the opposite will be case. A job-hunting process infused with anxiety and distrust will make mismatches between employee and employer even more common.
Companies also need to start the hiring process later so that students are not put in a double bind between the rigors of studying and the pressures of job hunting.
Companies have long held total sway over the scheduling and procedures of the job-hunting system. However, the government should compel them to make improvements.
Universities, too, should protest the process that pulls students away from campus well before they’ve even come close to completing their studies.
Parents need to reconsider the wisdom of pushing their children too hard, while society at large can help to present alternatives and better accept students who take a different life path.
When one in five work-seeking students contemplate suicide, the job-hunting system cannot be said to be working.
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