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Japanese firms cautious about new-grad hires on unclear virus impact

Japanese college students wear masks during visits to companies in Tokyo, on March 1, 2020, as the year's job-hunting season officially began in Japan. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Large Japanese companies are cautious about hiring new graduates in the 2021 business year, as the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy remains unclear, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.

    According to a survey on 111 companies, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp., 29 companies, or 26 percent of the total, said they are expected to cut back on hiring of new graduates in the year starting next April, rising from 16 percent in last year's poll on fiscal 2020 hiring.

    Only 10 firms, or 9 percent, said they are planning to increase hiring of new graduates, dropping from 21 percent in the previous survey.

    About 36 percent said there will be no change in their employment of new graduates, while 25 percent said they are undecided.

    Among sectors with plans to reduce hiring are materials and electronics makers, transport companies and retailers. Those companies as well as firms with undecided hiring plans said the impact on their earnings from the virus spread is uncertain and they need more time to see how the pandemic will affect the economy.

    For graduating students, job seeking conditions have remained favorable, as the Japanese labor market has been tight on the back of a labor shortage amid the country's rapidly graying society.

    But the survey, conducted from early April to early May, indicates the job market could take a turn for the worse after the virus spread forced nonessential businesses to close and restrict the movement of people.

    The combined net profit of companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's First Section dropped 66.8 percent in the quarter ended in March from a year earlier due to the impact of the virus, according to SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.'s data.

    The survey also found 83 percent are planning to conduct interviews with job seekers online amid stay-at-home requests to stem the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus.

    Many companies said they are willing to continue online interviews even after the pandemic subsides, as they could reduce the burden on students based in remote locations, while 79 percent said they have introduced or expanded telework.

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