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College graduate job search timeline agreement to be abolished: Keidanren chief

Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi has announced that the powerful business group will abolish its guidelines for the timing of the start to activities to recruit college students to enter its member companies in the spring of 2021.

The announcement made at a regular press conference on Sept. 3 may mean longer job-hunting periods for college students and may also trigger complaints from universities that fear confusing recruitment methods will affect the academic activities of their students.

Nakanishi said he had long felt "extremely uncomfortable" about the Keidanren setting the dates for member companies' recruitment of graduating students. "As the Keidanren, we will not say when (such activities) will be allowed to proceed," he said.

The business organization has almost 1,400 leading companies and 150 national industrial and regional economic organizations among its members, and the Keidanren's actions carry substantial weight over Japan's business community.

Under the current guidelines that came into effect in 2016 and are valid until spring 2020, Keidanren member companies can start public relations activities for recruitment such as company seminars on March 1, job interviews on June 1 and issue informal notices of promised employment on Oct. 1.

The timeline for students joining member companies in spring 2021 was to be decided by the fall of this year. If the guidelines are abolished altogether, it will be the first time since their introduction in 1953.

The timing of company seminars and job interviews were moved back substantially for students joining companies in spring 2016 in response to a request from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. As a result, Keidanren changed the start of seminars from December 1 to March 1, and that of interviews from April 1 to Aug. 1.

These changes, however, were criticized for dragging out the job-hunting period even further than before. As a result, the date for the start of interviews was shifted to June 1, but confusion still ensued.

Critics also say that the guidelines are simply a non-binding "gentlemen's agreement," lacking punishment for violators. The rules also only cover Keidanren member companies, not foreign corporations or medium- and small-sized enterprises. As a result, even member companies are moving up their recruitment activities to get a jump on the other companies in the job market.

During the press conference on Sept. 3, Nakanishi pointed out that the traditional labor practices at Japanese companies, such as lifetime employment and the recruitment of new college graduates en masse have lost currency.

"It is only natural that policies of member companies are respected -- and those policies vary," said Nakanishi, who is also the chairman of Hitachi, Ltd., indicating his thinking that corporations should conduct employee recruitment activities based on their individual management goals.

However, removing the Keidanren guidelines may cause a substantial forward jump for recruitment activities, as guidelines for the start dates of seminars and interviews disappear. Nakanishi said he is ready to tackle any debate if the government wishes to discuss the subject.

(Japanese original by Mikako Yokoyama, Business News Department)

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