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Editorial: Framework needed for corporate recruitment of college students

Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the powerful Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), has revealed his intention to abolish guidelines for member companies on the timing of recruitment activities targeting college graduates such as company seminars and job interviews.

The current guidelines stipulate that company seminars can start on March 1, interviews and other selection activities on June 1 and informal notification to students of employment on Oct. 1.

However in recent years, many companies try to attract promising third-year students of four-year university courses through summer internships and notify them of employment in June. These moves are a response to the tightening labor market due to personnel shortages.

Abolishing rules because fewer companies follow them does not make sense. Some kind of framework about the timing of recruitment activities is necessary so that students can focus on academic work. Keidanren is required to have thorough discussions on this issue.

The business group's recruitment activity guidelines have lost their strength because they are a "gentlemen's agreement" with no punishment against violators. The rules have changed multiple times, but no change was successful in reining in companies that try to gain by ignoring the rules.

Foreign companies and small- and medium-scale companies are conducting recruitment activities not bound by such guidelines. Meanwhile, more students are seeking to establish their own businesses or find jobs at venture companies, and major companies must be worried about their ability to attract capable college students.

Furthermore, the traditional practice by Japanese companies of hiring new college graduates en masse is criticized as having a negative effect of shutting off the labor market against students who were unsuccessful in landing jobs in their first attempts. Opportunities will increase for a variety of people if yearlong recruitment becomes the norm like in other countries.

But some companies are hiring people throughout the year even despite the current recruitment guidelines. The rules may have lost their weight, but they do prevent, to a certain extent, companies from getting a jump start to compete for good potential employees with no restrictions.

There is no question that abolishing recruitment guidelines will benefit major companies that have established human resource systems. For students, going overseas for study or making plans for extracurricular activities will become difficult.

Young generations are a common asset of the industrial society as a whole amid the declining population. Keidanren should consider the establishment of recruitment rules that allow students to focus on study, and measures to ensure their compliance.

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