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Japan's job-seeking students also facing sexual harassment

In this file photo, protesters gather in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on April 28 to criticize former Vice Minister of Finance Junichi Fukuda, who is alleged to have sexually harassed a female TV reporter. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The case of former Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda's alleged sexual harassment of a female TV reporter has put the spotlight on workplace sexual abuse. However, there appears to be little public awareness of job-seeking female college students falling victim to corporate harassers.

This kind of harassment seems to be growing as the spread of social networking and internships has enabled more personal, one-on-one contacts between corporate recruiters and student job seekers. As the annual recruitment season kicks off for students graduating next spring, victims are urging colleges to call attention to the danger of sexual harassment in the job market.

A woman in her 20s told the Mainichi Shimbun that, several years ago, she was taken to a posh hotel room by a male employee of an advertising company where she wanted to land a job. He told her that it was "to prepare for a job interview," she said. When he hugged her, she ran from the room crying. It was the second time she had met the man, who had been a presenter at a company recruitment event. Before going to the hotel room, they had had drinks together at the hotel bar, the woman said.

She said that she thought about reporting the incident to the advertising company, but she had no evidence to prove her claim. She was also applying to multiple companies in the same industry. "I feared other companies might hesitate to hire me if they knew I'd filed a complaint," she said, adding, "Students would be able to take action to protect themselves if universities reached out and told them to report incidents."

In recent years, the increasing prevalence of internships has led corporate recruiters to contact prospective hires personally, or otherwise make early attempts to get to know the new graduate candidates.

Another woman in her 20s confided that some years ago, she accepted an invitation for drinks by an employee of a company where she was an intern. The man then kissed her.

"I didn't know when I should say no because I thought that my job prospects would be affected if that man didn't like me," she told the Mainichi.

But how many job-seeking students are falling victim to recruitment sexual harassment? Only a sketchy picture is available. A job placement officer at a private university in Tokyo says that there are one or two complaints every year. "We don't know the real situation, and do not warn the students," the officer said.

Akemi Ueda, a career consultant involved in both corporate recruitment targeting new graduates and supporting job-hunting students, said there are now greater opportunities for personal contact between corporations and students as recruitment activities diversify.

"Even in a sellers' market, students are not always able to get the jobs they want, and so employers keep the upper hand. Companies should educate their employees and establish rules for meeting student applicants," Ueda said.

(Japanese original by Aya Shiota, Lifestyle News Center)

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