Japan: Un-hiring fresh graduates

Job hunting for fresh graduates in Japan is an intense trial called shushoku katsudo or shukatsu for short. University students in their third year start shukatsu during the winter in hopes of receiving several naitei (informal job offer/promise of employment) in May at the earliest, to start their new jobs on April 1st of the following year. Trapped in Japan refers to it as the “last war for the Japanese kids”, fought after the better-known hell of university entrance exams.

Photo by pottiri12 of a typical event in the early stages of shukatsu

This year, hundreds of students are having their naitei canceled by companies suffering from a rapidly declining economy. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has reported [ja] the number to be 331 as of November 28th, but numbers are escalating and the situation remains unclear as many students are thought to be quietly conceding. For example, Japan Senior High School Teachers and Staff Union recently claimed [ja] that 76 high school students have had their naitei canceled, much higher than the 29 that the Ministry reported last month.

Essayist Tatsuru Ueda refers to an article from Asahi Shimbun and makes a prediction:



“You probably won't be able to work in the division of your choice. You should start shukatsu again because joining this company will end up hurting your career.” A 21 year old student at a private university in the Kansai region was urged to ‘decline’ her naitei that was offered in May from a major manufacturer in Tokyo.

The phrase “employment ice age” that was so prevalent a while ago might be making a comeback.

A student who, along with that of 52 other graduates, is seeking compensation from a real estate company that canceled his naitei recently held a press conference. Zakzak reports :

学生は「働くことを心待ちにしていたし、会社に愛着も持ち始めていた。怒りよりも悲しみが大きい」と嘆いた。 […] 学生は「不動産業界はもう懲りました」と語り、現在は別の業界で就職活動中。ただ、時期が遅いため納得のいく就職先探しはかなわない状況だ。

The student said “I was looking forward to working, and was just starting to feel attached to the company. My sadness is greater than my anger”. […] The student says that he's “had enough of the real estate industry” and is currently looking into other industries. With this timing, however, satisfactory shukatsu is not possible.

id:JavaBlack points to the shukatsu system itself as the culprit:


The problem lies with the mass-hiring process for “cheap labor” based on the assumption of lifetime employment and seniority-based pay. This was already highlighted in 1991 when the bubble burst. It's been fifteen years since then, but corporate Japan hasn't changed.

Kirikomi Taicho calls for students to get smart:


I think students are aware that things will be rough even if they do manage to convince a company not to cancel. I heard the news about students entering into collective bargaining with a real estate company that canceled their naitei. Sorry to say this, but the company itself might not even exist next April.

Yoshihiro Nakamura experienced a cancellation more than a decade ago and shares his thoughts:



I was obviously shocked when my naitei was taken back. However, I found a position with the affiliate company of a major publishing house for long distance education in Okayama a couple of months later. This is where I started my current career as an editor for educational material. Who knows what life will bring?

On a side note, we once received an order from the company that canceled my naitei. Any company that gives you business can't be a bad one, and I no longer hold any special feelings toward that company. Perhaps this is because my life since my naitei was cancelled has gone pretty well.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.