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New graduates show lack of zeal for jobs and job-hunting

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Pity the poor boss in these insubordinate times. “If you let that sort of thing bother you,” sighs one mid-level company manager, “it’ll undermine your health.”

What she’s talking about is the cavalier attitude new college graduates are bringing to their first jobs. Of course, young people baffling their elders is nothing new. But two forces are clashing here -- leisure and zeal -- and zeal isn’t winning.

You’d think the precarious state of the economy would energize anyone lucky enough to land a job into struggling to keep it. On the other hand, as Shukan Gendai (June 20) points out, last year’s crop of college-educated corporate recruits is the first to have been schooled exclusively under the system of “yutori kyoiku” (relaxed education) introduced in 1992.

They are, the magazine finds, “relaxed” to a fault, their blasé unconcern apparently resistant to any self-defense mechanism which might suggest the need to be productive or else.

It starts with the job interview. “I don’t even get surprised any more when a candidate cancels an interview at the last minute,” says one personnel manager. Says another, “We’re a restaurant chain, so at interviews I’ll ask the candidate, ‘Which of our restaurants do you like?’ To which the reply might be something like, ‘I haven’t been to any of them, I saw on the Net that you were recruiting, so I thought I’d drop by…”

“Why do you want to work for us?” a personnel manager at a clothing retailer asked a candidate -- who replied, “I love theater, and your office is near the theater district.” Unfortunately, the manager doesn’t tell us whether he admired the honesty or deplored the failure to invent a more ingratiating reason.

"Yutori kyoiku" was the Education Ministry’s response to a growing perception that crushingly heavy school course loads were deforming children’s personalities. Problems ranged from bullying to social withdrawal to an inability to think beyond the regurgitation of memorized facts. The lightening of the curriculum began in 1992 with the elimination in public schools of Saturday morning classes.

Have things now gone too far in the other direction?

"'Yutori kyoiku' emphasized individuality,” Shukan Gendai hears from Tadashi Ikegaya, author of a book on how to deal with “yutori employees.”

“Children of the 'yutori' generation are motivated not by pride but by what interests them. They insist on doing what they want to do as opposed to what they’re told to do. Furthermore, having grown up for the most part in prosperous households, they’re not motivated by money. They seek self-fulfillment. So if it’s not work they really want to do, they won’t put much effort into it.”

That can be thoroughly exasperating to company superiors steeped in the virtue of self-sacrifice.

“We were short-handed, so we asked staff from another department to do some overtime for us,” says a 40-year-old IT company executive. “One of them was a freshman employee, and the first thing he does is show me his appointment book: ‘Look, I’m booked up for two months, I can’t work overtime on such short notice.’ But what was he ‘booked up’ with? Not company business but parties, drinking sessions, ‘idol’ concerts!”

That’s relaxed education for you. It teaches you there’s life outside the workplace. No wonder the idea is currently being reconsidered.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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stems from the lack of parental discipline. I believe most of Japanese parents allocate excessive time dealing with their jobs to the extent of neglecting the "quality time" their children needs.

"Is job more important than family?" .. once the question is cleared out you could conclude every consequence and the above news is just one of them.

.. this not entirely the educational system's fault.

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....motivated not by pride but by what interests them. They insist on doing what they want to do as opposed to what they’re told to do. Furthermore, having grown up for the most part in prosperous households, they’re not motivated by money. They seek self-fulfillment. So if it’s not work they really want to do, they won’t put much effort into it

Sounds pretty ideal. Looks like yutori kyoiku was a good thing.

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ROFL. Really amusing but at the same time disappointing. I admire the yutori generation’s motives in choosing a career for self-fulfillment. Honesty is an admirable trait. However, some of the new graduates in the article seem arrogant and unprofessional in the interviews and workplace especially the candidate for the clothing retail store. Good work ethnics and productivity seems to be missing. I usually refrain from contrasting Japan from the U.S. however, this behavior is usually not tolerated in the later and continued unprofessional behavior would result in termination of employment or unemployment in the first place.

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It's an emergency issue at college faculty meetings now.

"No respect at the interviews? Standing around smoking and fiddling with their mobiles? The recruitment people are angry? So, ...it is now the teaching staff's responsibility to re-educate them from freshmen onwards."

Quote from yesterday's meeting.

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So the slavemasters lament that once set free the slaves refuse to toil as before?

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Maybe, these kids grew up with a father or mother or both that worked themselves to death(sometimes literally), and they have NOTHING to show for it. Maybe they are determined to not end up in a job where they work 80+ hours every week, are bullied out of thier vacation time, AND not get paid for the overtime "for the good of the company".

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Working is overrated.

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of course there needs to be balance. all work n no play makes jack a dull boy... but recently during an interview, I had a young man pull out his cell phone and start replying to mail that he had received. when asked, he said it was a friend and I told him that he should just to talk to him in person because our time was over.

I champion individuality and self initiative as an american but it is easy to see that toyota will not be the pride of the automotive world much longer. just last year they had a record number of recalls and that is a trend I am sure will continue.

japan will get their wake up call in a few years and hundais are outselling mitsubishis, there will be a definite switch coming. it will become painfully obvious that undermining the company that employs you in selfish pursuit of freely expressing oneself will result in an inability to pursue ones goals due to financial restraints.

we have an english expression for that I believe. dont bite the hand that feeds you...

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bullying to social withdrawal to an inability to think beyond the regurgitation of memorized facts

Nothing has changed.

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So what's the big deal? There are thousands of grads out there looking for work - so give the jobs to the ones that really want them!

As for not wanting to do as they're told, work ridiculous hours, be a corporate stooge and hand the reins of control of their lives over to a suit - no, surely not!

I can't for the life of me see why eduation is such a problem here - one minute it is ridiculously tough, the next it is all change and ridiculously easy. How about settling in the middle for a change and actually teaching what needs to be known in an interesting way without the need for after-school school to teach all the things you don't learn at school but need to know? Radical, I know.

I totally agree with this having a lot to do with parents.

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PS - love the last line of the article!

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Yeah, unfortunately, this isn't a system change that can be as simple as an education-only shift. It logically follows that if people are pursuing their interests for study, then they should take jobs that align with their interests. If you continue to recruit people 'because they came from a good university' regardless of their personality and talent pool, you'll get recruits like that lovely 'alienated' fellow that stabbed his old professor just last month or so.

I see kids every day of varying seriousness in their study. Some bust their butts trying to do everything properly and learning a good working habit from it to boot. But others don't care and can't imagine being broke at 25, because their current lifestyles are pretty relaxed.

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. But kids need a way to imagine their interests forming a career path.

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“We’re a restaurant chain, so at interviews I’ll ask the candidate, ‘Which of our restaurants do you like?’

You could be asking about previous work experience, skills acquired, abilities, licenses, willingness to relocate, but instead you spend time talking about dining preferences? The point being what exactly? Are you going to hire someone because they prefer hamburgers over okonomiyaki?

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Mark: It's a basic question to sound out if the candidate has done their research. For example, even I know that Skylark runs Gusto, but has other restaurants, too. If your candidate can't even be bothered to make an effort in that regard, it doesn't speak well for their seriousness as a whole. You might be hiring for a purchasing position, for example, and if you know the chain uses nomihoudai Drink Bar services, that'll put a different spin on the job responsibilities and so forth.

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Saborichan, yeah, it's not a terrible question, but it's not particularly useful. If you were hiring for a purchasing position, you might ask, "Do you have any experience purchasing for a nomihoudai drink bar?"

Instead of complaining to a newspaper/news service about the quality of answers he's getting, this personnel manager needs to ask a better question. When all else fails, "What do you know about our company?" The difference being a candidate can come back and say, for example, "I noticed your same store sales are up 3% in Tokyo but down 2% in Kansai." instead of, "I like your chicken restaurant."

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Good on the kids, I say.

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why would you want to work for anyone who would replace you with a robot, given the choice?

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Many new graduates show lack of zeal for nearly everything. There are a surprisingly high number of zombies graduating these days. I think many readers here are mistaking indifference for rebellion. These folks are not interested enough to rebel.

There are of course a lot of good kids with a sense of responsibility as well, but not as many as there were in the past, I think.

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I think many readers here are mistaking indifference for rebellion.

possibly. i think it can be summarised as a disease of affluence, however. previous post war generations did the 80 hour weeks, but at least they could see real, tangible changes during the post-war recovery. now that japan has reached a high level of material affluence, the question should be asked; what are we working for now? why has japan gained all the material trappings of modernity but still requires its people to be slaves to the social models of the past?

i think a lot of young people realise this, if unconsciously. they aren't a different species to the older generations, they have just grown up in a very different mental and material environment

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One thing is not wanting to work another thing is wasting other peoples time which I think this is what it comes down to. Fine if you dont want to work but dont make an appointment and not try. Thats just immature. As for rebellion, they're not rebelling. If they want to rebel - leave Japan or leave home, go and do something that your parents dont want you to do. It all just smacks of laziness to me. If future generations are all coming out like this then Japan is really going to have some tough problems.

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I think it's admirable to pursue what is really in your heart, regardless of age or education. There is reward in doing what you genuinely love to do, even if it is a struggle financially and your earnings are not much to write home about. I'm also glad to see some of the Japanese waking up and realizing that there is indeed life outside of work. You don't have to be a wage slave.

A big part of the problem, from my limited understanding of the Japanese work ethic, is the inefficiency, on both a large scale level right down to each individual. Lots of meaningless bureaucracy, endless meetings / minute taking, and paper shuffling to fill up the much longer "unofficial" hours in Japan. It's more important to be seen as busy, than actually doing work...is that correct? Those of you with actual Japanese work experience, please feel free to correct me.

I had one Japanese friend remark to me that he thought white collar workers, in particular, were incredibly inefficient. He asked about working in the west, and I mentioned that most offices and firms had an 8 - 5 pm working schedule, with little overtime required -- the difference being, of course, that you work hard and responsibly in that 8 or 9 hours, as opposed to working at a leisurely pace spread out over 12-14 hours.

To be fair, these are problems in western nations as well but I think it's far less prevalent because of the (seemingly) higher standards of personal accountability people are held to; although you wouldn't guess that with the huge, unjustified corporate payouts and general mess we find ourselves in today.

This was an interesting article to read, and yes some of the responses were rather unprofessional (but still funny).

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This is not rocket science. If the companies don't like the job hunters, don't hire them (bad attitude, not qualified, cancels an interview etc). If the job hunters don't like the companies, don't accept their job offers (bad work environment, too much overtime, low salary, etc).

Advice to companies - If you want a larger/better selection of applicants to choose from...raise the salary.

Advice to job hunters - If you want more job options...increase your job skills/education.

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medievaltimes - you ought to know we don't have time for rational solutions.

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This would be a great time to become an "Entrepreneur".

"The French don't have a word for Entrepreneur". George W. Bush Jr.

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Classic old vs new school clash! People are waking up to the fact that other countries encourage you to work to live instead living to work. Compare Japan to Denmark where they encourage you to have a minimum of 6 weeks holiday in a year The kids know that when they join a company, they practically hand over their identity to them. The idea of your identity being wrapped with your company is now an out-dated notion. This generation have grown up watching their parents work themselves to death and have realised theres more to life than this. Who can blame for their reluctance? If companies start introducing notions like flexi time, company holidays and the like then people will buy into that and theyll end up with loyal hard workers.

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the young ones see their parents & dont want to end up like them & who can blame them, the typical salaryman family lifestyle is nothing I wud aspire to, so many are opting out.

But they dont know what to do next.

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I think for the women this means a lot more will be looking to marry foreigners to escape. If the Japanese guys are not working or the jobs have no benefits then escaping by marrying a non Japanese will be the next option.

I only hope they will be little wise about the guys they choose. Because there are a lot of losers running around Japan. Just hooking up with a foreigner wasn't smart in the past and even worse in the present.

The young people must change the system. There needs to be more Horie's in the mix.

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“We were short-handed, so we asked staff from another department to do some overtime for us,” says a 40-year-old IT company executive. “One of them was a freshman employee, and the first thing he does is show me his appointment book: ‘Look, I’m booked up for two months, I can’t work overtime on such short notice.’ But what was he ‘booked up’ with? Not company business but parties, drinking sessions, ‘idol’ concerts!”

this IT executive have no right to complain and force the young employee to work for him beyond his duties, and in short notice. if they are short handed, it is because of their bad management on his part. but to take away his social life, this will ruin his morale with the company.

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what are we working for now? why has japan gained all the material trappings of modernity but still requires its people to be slaves to the social models of the past?

Very good friend of mine, Japanese lady worked very hard everyday for her company many years. She "gave" her life to them, she studied hard to get promoted, but never did. I remember her boyfriend was saying when I asked them to go out, that she is sooooo busy with work and study. She was returning home everyday at about 10-11p.m. Now she is out of job and became "temp". I asked her what`s happened, you studied and worked so hard. Her answer was: "Well, it happens and this is a company which never know what they want".

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This Sukan Gendai article is among other things outdated. There is a recession on, companies are canceling promised jobs to new graduates and lots of people are being tossed out of work. Young people are turning to the Communist Party. I must ask when was this piece of sensationalistic weekly journal crap researched? I recall reading something like this a year or more ago.

I do not believe that there is this sort of easy-goingness among the current new workers who are luck enough to have jobs.

The article ends with a blanket condemnation of so-called relaxed education. Of course, there is nothing in the article that scientifically links it to this supposed laziness amongst new workers.

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the other problem is that once you hire them you can't fire them so where's the incentive to work hard?

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I think there is some truth here. A European employee of one European big company, who has an office in Tokyo and a lot of Japanese workers there, said that once she asked a Japanese office worker to translate a press release she had written in English, into Japanese, and the Japanese worker declined, stating that it was not written in her work contract. Many Japanese workers just do robotically what they are trained to do, but ask them to do something unexpected and they go totally 0 in their heads.

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The article ends with a blanket condemnation of so-called relaxed education.

The article ends with a bit of light-hearted sarcasm.

she asked a Japanese office worker to translate a press release she had written in English, into Japanese, and the Japanese worker declined, stating that it was not written in her work contract.

To be fair to the Japanese office worker, translation is specialised work. If she's only being paid to make the tea, answer the phone and work the copy machine, there's no reason she should be expected to translate.

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biglittleman I like your post, especially: "Because there are a lot of losers running around Japan. Just hooking up with a foreigner wasn't smart in the past and even worse in the present." Us foreigners gotta straighten ourselves up and reprimand the losers, else we will lose our reputation.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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this is an interesting development. Japanese students who were taught to follow their own interests are going to find that few companies are actually interesting or appealing. Maybe some will even start their own businesses. If companies don't make workplace live more liveable they're going to find that they won't get the staff.

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Well, here is an anecdote. I recently interviewed for a career position and salary, etc. was fine. BUT, when I asked to see the physical office it was depressing. 15 people sharing a window-less internal room of a bland rectangular building in an industrial area, in which the cafeteria was located--meaning, you come, you work, you eat one floor below, you work late, you go home. No trips for coffee or walking out for lunch or decent views. Man, who wants to spend 12 hours a day in that kind of environment with no other foreigners to commiserate with? Japanese companies need to put some priority in the physical setting.

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Mmm, maybe more jobs for me. :)

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Cleo - "If she's only being paid to make the tea, answer the phone and work the copy machine, there's no reason she should be expected to translate"

I appreciate your centiments but it cant hurt to demonstrate a little flexibility. Its no use complaining later because she's had no pay rise or promotion. If she can do it, a little translation work might even have made her day more interesting.

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more generally, there is definitely something wrong with the "developed" world. concepts like "the economy" and "industry" are supposed to be a means to end, not ends in themselves

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I think its important to set a precedent day one when you are a new employee.

“One of them was a freshman employee, and the first thing he does is show me his appointment book: ‘Look, I’m booked up for two months, I can’t work overtime on such short notice.’ But what was he ‘booked up’ with? Not company business but parties, drinking sessions, ‘idol’ concerts!”

Let the management understand that your friends are more important than your fellow co-workers or boss.

"I don’t even get surprised any more when a candidate cancels an interview at the last minute" ->

Teach them that better opportunities may come up at anytime and that you will seize the opportunity when it does and leave their job at the drop of a hat.

Revolution! Rise up! Chill.

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Sounds great to me, what Japan needs. The old will have to pay the young well to be looked after in old age, and I think the young are begining to realize that.

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Cleo: If somebody applies to a company as a bilingual (Japanese and English), clearly they should expect their bilingual skills to be used for the benefit of the company at some point.

In the same company, this foreign worker said the Japanese co-workers were often amazed that she initiated to do some tasks herself, when nobody had even asked her to do them.

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What a load of caca. Some guys says there is a connection between yutori kyoiku and an anecdotal perceived lack of interest in job applicants, and it's accepted as legit? Pleeeeaaaaase. Figures this comes from trashy tabloids.

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eugirl

if she was asked to just very roughly translate a few lines in an email or something fine. But if she was asked to properly translate documents & she was unqualified to do so then she was very smart for declining & her boss totally stupid for asking. I am what I call a lazy bilingual, I always joke I am illiterate in 2 languages. I am neither a translator or an interpreter, 2 different things in case you didnt know, yet I do my job in english & japanese every day. That does not in any sense qualify me for translation or interpretation.

Do I help with those things, yeah all the time for bits here & there but I wud very quickly decline serious & important translation or interpretation because thats not my thing.

Again smart girl, stupid boss!

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When there are needs everyone able should work or not eat. All these retired healthy people could put in a few hours a week if there was an opportunity. Not slave labor but the idea everyone is needed. Certainly the youth are not garbage and every effort should be made to ensure they are wanted and there is a place for them. I think johnnyboy hits it on the head with work being a means to an end which is enlightenment for many through following ones interests. Europeans have a nice lifestyle which is the envy of the world. Japan would do well to put into law many things to protect workers from overzealous stockholders. It would be wonderful if a leader emerges that will take Japan from The old meaning of WA (bent down" 亻 "people" like slaves) to the present one..."Around 757 CE, Japan officially changed its endonym from Wa 倭 to Wa 和 "harmony; peace; sum; total". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wa_(Japan)

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GW has it right.

eugirl said -

If somebody applies to a company as a bilingual (Japanese and English), clearly they should expect their bilingual skills to be used for the benefit of the company at some point.

That doesn't necessarily mean they have to have translating skills. Many years ago when I worked for a gaishikei electronics firm in Tokyo as a bilingual secretary, all the female office staff were bilingual, and they were quite happy answering the phone in English and Japanese, taking dictation in English and Japanese, typing letters and invoices in English and Japanese etc; but I was the only one expected to do any formal translating of documents. And I got paid a lot more than the women whose job descriptions were limited to bashing the (bilingual) typewriters.

Helping out as best you can is one thing; being asked to do a job for which you are not qualified and are not being paid is quite another. Especially if the clueless boss who asked you to do the job in the first place expects you to take the blame if/when you botch it.

Nurses in hospitals have a degree of medical knowledge which they're naturally expected to use in their jobs, but that doesn't mean they're qualified to perform surgery.

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So Japan is turning into a nation of jobsworths, scroungers, and feeloaders. Companies don't expect you to work long hours anymore, the Labour Ministry has been pushing for work life balance for years now, it's the workers that would rather sit in the office than go home and look after the kids that cling on to the corporate warrior ethos.

In my experience in the Japanese corporate world (15 years) the first thing any Japanese person does when faced with real work is try to find someone else to do it.

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The employers only have themselves to blame. Decades of exploiting their workers with enforced, unpaid overtime "for the good of the company", and sacrificing family life to conform to some bogus work ethic ideology, is to blame for this situation. Well done to those who resist the trap their fathers fell into. Why would you want to work for some of those companies anyway?

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Beerplease: I agree. The reason is not the yutori education at elementary, mmiddle or high schools, but the university education. A lot of students just sleep their way through the uni.

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A lot of students just sleep their way through the uni.

Very true. I seriously doubt the interviewees are much different than before. The only verifiable change that we have today is that companies are hiring fewer graduates.

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Limp efforts to find a job is inexcusable...but lack of zeal for jobs? if you work hard and productively during normal working hours why shouldnt you be allowed to leave at a normal time and enjoy your life? unless it's really urgent of course. The Japanese need to work smarter - not longer.

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seems finally some japanese realize that work is not everything in live and that live is to short to waste it by working 20h a day... AND that you can finish your work during the normal working hours if you don't have to work 20h every day.

I know it was the Japanese mentallity to work as hard as possible to keep the job you have. But since it "was" it's time that "the old ones" realize that a 20h working day isn't more effective than a regular day and that their thinking might be wrong.

I hope the junger ones will keep up their own way of thinking with a good amount of company needs awareness. I respect those who have to work overtime in order to provide something to their families, but this assumes that they get paid for their overtime.

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I know it was the Japanese mentallity to work as long as possible

corrected.

anyway, a slave is a worker, minus the social life

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And this is a result of a change in school curriculum that was to address "Problems ranged from bullying to social withdrawal to an inability to think beyond the regurgitation of memorized facts".

Hmmm, seems the change only affected people's work attitudes....

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And this is a result of a change in school curriculum that was to address "Problems ranged from bullying to social withdrawal to an inability to think beyond the regurgitation of memorized facts". Hmmm, seems the change only affected people's work attitudes....

you can't isolate individual elements and expect to be able to dictate the way things will change. humans are complex animals. teach a person to be more creative and don't be surprised if it makes them less obedient and more questioning as well. this is par for the course and seems to be just what it happening. i applaud it. japan is a society which tries to make a virtue of having a rigid system which steadfastly refuses to adapt to changes in its external environment. supposedly the only place in the natural world where "adapt to survive" is not thought to apply. perhaps for once the established hierarchy will have to adapt to changes coming from below. hurrah!

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Gotta love the headline: "New graduates show lack of zeal for jobs and job-hunting".......how about changing it to read: "New graduates showed lack of zeal for their entire educational life prior to job hunting"

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Or..."New graduates show lack of zeal for a system that sucks"

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