The employment rate for job seekers who graduated from universities this spring stood at 97.6 percent, government data showed Friday, in the latest sign of a widespread labor shortage amid a graying population.
The employment rate for fiscal 2018, which ended in March, was the second-highest on record after the 98.0 percent figure marked the previous year, according to data released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The government began recording such statistics in 1997. The latest figure marked the first fall in eight years.
Employment demand remained strong among companies on the back of the labor shortage, an education ministry official said.
In the job market for new graduates, the number of job openings substantially exceeded that of job seekers.
The proportion of job seekers among university graduates rose 0.7 point from the previous year to a record 76.0 percent.
Of the job seekers, some 10,700 students were unable to find a job, according to the survey, which covered 4,770 new graduates of 24 national or public universities and 38 private universities. The labor ministry said it will continue to provide support for the job seekers.
On the slight fall in the employment rate, a labor ministry official pointed to some students who graduated without taking a job in order to try applying for their top-choice companies again.
By gender, the employment rate for male students fell 0.2 point to 97.3 percent, while that for female students declined 0.8 point to 97.8 percent.
Employment rates stayed high across the country. The Kanto region covering greater Tokyo logged 98.1 percent, down 0.4 point.
By region, the rate also declined in the Chubu, Chugoku-Shikoku and Kyushu regions. On the other hand, the rate climbed to record highs in the Hokkaido-Tohuku and Kinki regions.
Overall, there is no change in the favorable trend for employment, the labor ministry said.
A separate survey by the education ministry showed the employment rate for job seekers who graduated from high schools rose 0.1 point to 98.2 percent at the end of March, marking the ninth consecutive year of increase and standing just below the record 98.3 percent recorded in fiscal 1990, when Japan was experiencing an economic bubble.
Of new high school graduates, the employment rate of men remained unchanged at 98.5 percent, while that of women climbed 0.2 point to 97.6 percent.
By prefecture, the rate was highest in Fukui, standing at 99.9 percent, and lowest in Okinawa, at 92.9 percent.
Of a total 1.06 million high school graduates in March, the survey covered 187,342 new high school graduates who were seeking jobs, of whom 183,891 took up the jobs.
Facing a tight labor market, major firms are changing their employment policy to hire university graduates year-round.
Keidanren, the powerful business lobby also known as the Japan Business Federation, said last month it will no longer expect its member companies to adhere to the custom of offering jobs to college seniors in October each year to allow the new recruits to start working from the following April, when the new business year starts.
The government has already introduced a series of steps to make up for a severe labor shortfall due to the nation’s rapidly graying population, such as bringing in more foreign workers and promoting women’s participation in the labor market.
Still, Japan is expected to face a shortage of 6.44 million workers in 2030, according to an estimate by Chuo University and Persol Research and Consulting.
Amid the backdrop of the labor shortage, the government on Wednesday urged companies to secure employment for workers up to the age of 70 through a host of options such as continued employment after reaching retirement age, support in finding new jobs at other firms, financial assistance for freelance contracts and entrepreneurship support.