By Yosuke Suzuki and Narushi Nakai, Business News Department
The new coronavirus pandemic has directly hit Japanese students studying overseas. They were forced to return to Japan to prevent infections and then found themselves struggling to find a job. Students who have studied overseas should be attractive to companies as they have language skills and an international mindset, but recruitment practices unique to Japan seem to be causing these students trouble.
“The coronavirus outbreak has upset my plans,” says a university senior studying at a national university in the Kyushu region. She left Japan to study in Europe in March 2020 but was forced to return to Japan only after two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
She decided to study abroad because she wanted to work at a major trading firm. When she participated in a summer internship at a major trading company when she was junior, another student who had studied overseas seemed to have something special. She says, “I thought I would gain experience overseas and emphasize it during the recruiting process at companies.”
But the plan crumbled all too soon. In March, when she returned to Japan, Japanese students were already doing their research on companies and attending online employment seminars. “I was completely behind,” she said. She grew more and more anxious and took employment exams one after another from companies ranging from an auto sales company to a real estate company. In late June, she managed to get a job offer from a regional trading house and then she ended her job-hunting.
She is not satisfied with this, however. She hopes to go overseas under the working holiday or other system to improve her skills once the coronavirus pandemic has been contained. After that she aims to find a job at a major trading house.
Close to 300 students returned to Japan
The pandemic forced many Japanese students who were studying overseas to return home this spring in the middle of their program. A private university in Tokyo says nearly 300 students were forced to return to Japan.
According to a survey conducted in April 2020 of Japanese students who were studying overseas, 59% said the new coronavirus “seriously affected” their job-hunting activities and 34% said it “somewhat affected” them, showing that a total of more than 90% of respondents say they have been affected in some way by the pandemic. The survey was conducted by leading employment information provider DISCO (Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo).
On the other hand, a senior at Sophia University sees the early return to Japan in a positive manner. He had been studying at a university in the U.S. state of Louisiana since August 2019. He was scheduled to return to Japan in June or July 2020 and was thinking about starting job-hunting in earnest after that.
But the pandemic forced him to return to Japan in late March ahead of schedule. He became serious about job-hunting in mid-May because he was taking online classes at the American university from his home in Japan.
He actively participated in online employment seminars and received an informal job offer from an environment-related firm in late June.
Companies are also helping students who got a late start in job-hunting. Itochu Corporation held a screening in July for students who could not join the June screening.
Sony will hire employees in the autumn for the first time ever. The company says it plans to have new hires enter the company in October 2021 and it will focus recruiting for this on Japanese students who have studied overseas.
But only a few companies offer multiple employment routes like this. The majority of companies still use the government-designated schedule for recruiting, namely, “hold employment seminars in March and conduct the selection process in June.” It is difficult for students to get into the recruiting system unless they engage in job-hunting during that period.
To solve this problem, the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, agreed with universities in April 2019 to promote “year-round recruitment” to allow companies to employ students who have a broad experience, such as having studied overseas. Attention is focused on how companies will handle recruiting going forward. (Abridged)