Jobs in Japan During a Global Pandemic
Thursday, October 8, 2020
The pandemic has made it difficult for foreign students to secure jobs, here are some resources to help.
An Increasingly Difficult Situation
As COVID-19 has slowed economic activities around the world, businesses in Japan have also cut their hiring and training budget this year and international students in Japan are the most affected. Compared to 48% of Japanese students who had received job offers at the end of late May, a meager 2.2% of international students were given guarantees from their prospective employers. In addition, large numbers of international students used to be employed in the hotel and tourism sectors where recovery is unpredictable. Similarly, recovery in service industries such as food and beverage and retail is also suffering from the same fate. While some students continue to struggle to get job offers, the volatility of the job market has also resulted in companies rescinding offers, leaving students stranded and disheartened.
Mynavi, a major job information provider in Japan, conducted a survey among foreign students regarding their woes related to job search. The biggest concern (70 percent) of students surveyed were anxious about a fewer number of companies hiring this year. The other concerns were more closely related to the woes of previous years like being insufficiently prepared for job interviews, inability to complete application forms correctly, practicing a pitch for self introduction and searching for available jobs in general.
Job-hunting Services Available during COVID-19
Due to the impact of COVID-19, a large number of career fairs have moved online with the selection process, application, testing and interview process conducted 100% online. Candidates are able to view company seminars online and tune in and directly ask questions to the companies before submitting the soft copy of their resumes and entry sheets. Once they pass the resume screening, candidates will go through the standard aptitude testing process all in the comfort of their own home.
A prominent example is Boston Career Forum, dubbed as “the world’s largest job fair for Japanese - English bilinguals” has been adapted to this new online format for this year. The fair plans to hold online live seminars for four different times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from September 11 to November 8. In order to participate, applicants are required to register in advance. Job requirements and interview formats and dates vary by companies, and the application process is on an ongoing basis.
According to a survey carried out by major recruitment services provider Mynavi Corporation, since the application process has moved online this year, students are spending one third on costs related to job hunting compared to the same period last year, averaging a drop from 89,415 JPY to a mere 29,000 JPY.Prior to the pandemic, students had to purchase professional outfits including crisp shirts and suits, as well as shell out for transportation and accommodation expenses. Being able to attend online interviews has helped relieve the financial burden on fresh graduate students in their job search process.
Support from Universities
As fresh graduate students face a grim reality of a decreased number of recruiting firms, universities are putting in extra effort to give them some much-needed support. The International Student Support Room at the University of Tokyo, while being unable to provide physical walk-in advisory sessions as well as consultations via phone, continues to provide the support through email and Zoom meetings. Students are able to book private one-on-one guidance sessions with career counselors. On the website of the Support Room, a number of job-hunting websites and resources are also provided.
Similarly, Sophia University also adapted to the increasingly difficult situation of COVID-19 by turning their annual career fair in July co-hosted with Temple University for International-students into an online format. The university also acknowledged potential difficulties faced by graduating students as they cannot have access to their peer circles and career counselors, which was revealed through the results of an internal campus-wide survey. As a result, the university decided to establish Sophia Online Commons as an online community hub for students. Regardless of where students are currently based in the world, they are able to come together and discuss topics of concern with their upperclassmen about job hunting. The decision by the university has received positive responses by students as an effort to support them not only in seeking advice in job-hunting, but also in creating an uplifting environment and caring about students’ mental health.
In addition to providing job-hunting resources, universities also give a hand in helping students maintain their legal status to stay in Japan for job search in case they have yet to land an offer after graduation. Students can extend their visa status by changing their status of residence to “Designated Activities” through the Immigration Bureau in Japan in order to continue with their job-hunting. Students who have graduated from the university within a year and have started job-hunting before graduation are eligible to apply. The Career Center at universities will issue a recommendation letter for students to submit to the Immigration Bureau alongside with other documents, such as documents from Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners or emails with companies students are applying for. Through this application, fresh graduates can extend their visa status for a six-month period, after which they can apply for an additional six-months.
While the current outlook might appear grim and disappointing to international students, it does not mean that all hope has been lost. Many companies are choosing to extend their recruitment period, for example, Panasonic decided to continue with their hiring period until September this year. Therefore, job seekers can be more assured and have more time in preparing and performing well in job interviews. Other companies are also giving out offers to successful candidates more quickly than usual in order to secure talents amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.
As long as international students keep their heads high and stay positive in their job search endeavors, professional recruitment companies (including Izanau) believe that they will be able to pick up their pace and eventually find a suitable position. When the coronavirus situation worldwide slows down, more companies will resume hiring like normal, and foreign talent will be more important to Japan's economy than ever before.
About the Author
Economics student based in Tokyo. Focused in writing about socioeconomic issues in modern Japan.