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“Let Us Dream”: Demonstrating Against Unified Job Hunting in Japan

Each spring, the job hunting season starts and Japanese students in their third year of university start preparing by suiting up, attending seminars and job fairs, and having bouts of soul searching. They apply to dozens of companies, each with multiple rounds of examinations and interviews, until they receive one or several job offers.

The process can take up a large chunk of the last two years of school; a mentally and physically draining time that eats into one’s self-confidence.

"Job Hunting Seminar for Sophomore Students" by Flickr user shinyai (CC BY-NC 2.0).

"Job Hunting Seminar for Sophomore Students" by Flickr user shinyai (CC BY-NC 2.0).

On Labor Day, students held demonstrations in Tokyo and Kyoto to rally against this system, expressing anger towards the irrational hoops and hurdles that impede on studying time. The demonstration also criticized the commercialization of job hunting, pointing fingers to several major online student/company matching services that play a big part in the ecosystem of the practice.

The organizers used blogs and Twitter (@syukatsu_tokyo and @S_demo_Kyoto) to call for support, and eventually round up more than a hundred demonstrators.

@syukatsu_tokyo: 【拡散願】とうとう後2日!就活ぶっこわせデモ、水曜日13時半アルタ前集合です!!行こうか行くまいか迷っているそこのあなた!!遠目に見てるだけでも構わない!ぜひ新宿アルタ前に! #就活デモ

[Please RT] Two more days to go! We will be gathering for the demonstration to abolish university graduate job recruitment practices in front of the Shinjuku Alta building at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday! Still undecided? Just come to watch, then. Meet up in front of Shinjuku Alta!

This is one of their messages:

@hosyukakumei: 競争はあってもいいと思うんんだけど、共生を目指したいんです。同じ日本人通しで勝ち組とか負け組とかいうレッテルを貼りあうのはもういい加減やめませんか?少なくとも私はそういう不毛な争いに疲れました。 #就活デモ

Competition is fine, but we'd like to aim for peaceful coexistence. Couldn’t we just stop the cavalier labels of “winners” and “losers” among ourselves? I, at least, am tired of such unproductive conflicts.

The Tokyo organizers report that more than 1,000 people watched the live stream, while the archived footage garnered over 6,000 views.

The demonstration gathered attention in the online sphere. Many commented that the intent of the demonstration was unclear, although there were some that supported the act of having a demonstration.

@yatabe_: 就活ぶっこわせデモを傍観してきたけど(参加はしてない)主張がなくて何が言いたいのかわかんなかった。試みは面白いだけに非常に残念。「就活くたばれ」「○○ナビ潰れろ」「ゆとりにゆとりを」「夢を見させろ」って叫びながら歩いてたけど、わがまま言ってるようにしか聞こえなかった。 #就活デモ

I went to watch the demonstration against graduate job recruitment practices from the sidelines (I did not participate in it), but there was no emphasis on any particular point. I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to say and it’s too bad, because the initiative itself is interesting. Demonstrators were chanting “Down with the graduate job recruitment process,” “Crush the _ _navi [an online match service for students and companies]”, “Make room for the Yutori Generation” and “Let us dream”. This just sounded selfish.

@hgkent: でも個人的にはやる意味は十分あると思う 頭の良い人は就活が労働全般の構造問題だってわかってるし、それを変えるにはデモだけじゃ足りないってことも だから生半可に考えてるならやめろってことかもしれない でもでも、気づいてない人のほうがたくさんいるんだよ それが問題なんだよ #就活デモ

Still, I personally think the act of demonstrating against it has plenty of meaning. Intelligent people understand that the simultaneous recruitment of university graduates is a structural issue and that a demo alone is not sufficient to change this practice. Maybe that is why there’s a need for people to stop treating this issue in a superficial manner…. but many people lack this kind of awareness. This is where the problem lies!

@kobayashiokamu: 明日の就活デモ、思ったより議論が深まってなくてちょっと残念なところもあるけど、とりあえず今の就活はシステムだけじゃなく独特な習慣や作法的な部分がキモすぎるからそこはぶっ壊し希望。

I was a bit let down that the discussions surrounding tomorrow’s demonstration did not deepen as I expected. Some of the unique social practices and rules of behavior are so esoteric though, so I agree with the premise of crushing the system!

Here are some voices that question the futility of tearing down this system.

@chakist: 新卒採用枠をなくしたところで既卒の採用枠が広がるとは思えないし、広がったとしても何の経験もない新卒者の門戸がさらに狭まると思うけどね。既卒として経験者募集の求人ばかり見てる身としては。 #就活デモ

Getting rid of the specific window for fresh graduates wouldn't increase opportunities for non-fresh graduates. Additionally, fresh graduates would have an even harder time finding a job if they had to compete with everyone else, since they don't have any working experience. That's how I feel, as someone who's NOT a fresh graduate and is looking his next job.

@Harnyan726: 就職できない人、社会のシステムからこぼれ落ちる人がいるので生活保護なり何なりで野垂れ死にを防止しましょう、というなら分かるのだが、就職できない人がいなくなるような就活システムってそれ社会主義だから

I would understand if the message was promoting a helping hand via welfare benefits or some such measures to people who can’t find jobs or who slip through the cracks of our society. Come on! The kind of employment system in which everyone has a job is called socialism.

Photo of the demonstration from the official blog

It’s a catch 22 situation for students. Rebelling against the system – no matter how wrong you think it is – is probably not going to help your chances of getting a job. And if you've managed to secure a job, would you be so passionate about this cause? It makes people curious and dubious about who exactly is participating.

@sankakutyuu: 「高学歴の俺様に相応しいクリエイティブでファッショナブルな仕事寄越せ」なんつー無理筋な話じゃなくって「一生居酒屋バイトでも所帯を持って幸福の内に生命を終えることができる世の中にしろ!」と声を挙げることが何故できないの? #就活デモ

Why can’t the demonstrators raise their voices to say, “Create a world a place where I can have a family and lead a happy life even though I only have a temporary job working in a pub,” instead of something clearly unreasonable to the tune of “Give me a creative and cool-sounding job that is worthy of my high level of education”?

@hatiue46: 就活システムに関しても、変えられるのはこの就活システムによって職を得た人たちなわけだが、いざ就職できてしまうと就活時に理不尽さを感じていても、変えようという気がなくなってしまうのだと思う。こういったのを変えられるのはベンチャーくらい?

The only people who can change things are those who have obtained employment through this very system. However, I think that people lose their motivation for change once they’ve started working, even if they felt during the process that it was highly unjust. Perhaps startups are the only ones who can shake things up?!
Thanks to Ian McKenzie for helping with the translation.

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