Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about university grads’ well-publicized desperation in the face of a shrinking job market. The story has been covered extensively for the past year or so, but the Closeup Gendai feature cited in the column made a persuasive case that many of these grads have a very narrow view of their possibilities based mainly on a received notion that, because they’re graduating from a particular university, they are somehow destined for a particular sort of future that doesn’t really exist any more, if, in fact, it ever did.
This idea is bolstered by an article in today’s Japan Times about large construction companies looking for growth overseas. The major corporations that these grads believe are the key to their happiness now require more flexible employees to accomplish their changing goals, and the grads have not received the kind of education to provide that. As mentioned on the program and in the column, there are small and medium-sized companies that do promise some growth from a purely domestic point of view, but many grads have to be purposely steered toward them. A pretty common complaint now about the younger generation of Japanese is that they have no desire to go abroad; they see no point in it. Whether this disinclination is due to fear, laziness, or cultural self-centeredness makes no difference. The big companies they long for are going in the opposite direction. Of course, the big companies, who for years carried out recruitment policies that encouraged the exact kind of attitudes that these grads now display, have as much to do with this perception gap as anybody does, and maybe even more so since as a collective force they’ve lobbied over the years to make it easier to dismiss full-time workers and hire people with no benefits or security. This is not news, though these grads may be the last to read about it.
My college-aged students – and by extension their parents – are going through so much agony in their job hunts. It pains me to watch it. What’s puzzling to me is that most of them graduated from big schools in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, etc), and were certain of landing good, stable jobs in big-name companies. (I can attest to the fact that they had very good upbringings, and devoted parents who spared no expense.) Recently one young lady, who attends a prestigious university and works in a doughnut shop in her free time, told me that she is seriously thinking of asking the doughnut shop owner to make her a “seisha-in” (full-timer) after she graduates. She’s smart, beautiful, virtually bilingual … and yet she’s so discouraged in her job hunt that she’s begging a fast-food restaurant to take her on.