No clue where to find job security

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From Mr Tetsuro Sugiura.

Sir, I felt some frustration when reading David Pilling’s column (“Abe is right to take from the old and give to the young”, Comment, March 21) and the letter from Ali M. El-Agraa (“Japanese youth disenchanted with ‘life employment”, March 25) because, while they captured some aspects of Japanese youth, they failed to describe the root cause of the problem.

This is that there are fewer and fewer decent jobs as big companies cut costs and expand overseas rather than domestically. Many Japanese youths know it is very hard to find job security – but still don’t understand how to get it.

It’s not unusual for students to send out more than 50 resumés to companies they want to work for. Big companies usually receive a couple of thousand applications for just a few places. There is much speculation among students about the standards used for selection. As well as which university and what you studied, many other factors are thought to be important – such as age, social activities and number of Facebook friends.

Because students don’t know why they aren’t getting hired, they guess, and try to do whatever they think will help, such as leading a student club, expanding their Facebook community and so forth. In other words, they spend much time preparing for the uncertain process of hiring, which might instead have been time spent on their studies. Ryo Asai’s book Nanimono (in English: Who am I?), which recently won the Naoki Prize, describes students’ worries in hiring season with great reality.

Young Japanese are desperate for decent jobs and stable “salaryman” or “salarywoman” status. They are eager to work hard to earn a stable income and to get promotion. It is not a case of putting socialising before hard work.

Older Japanese have failed to restore the economy and to create decent jobs, and it is the young who are paying the price.

Tetsuro Sugiura, Vice Chairman, Mizuho Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan

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