By Anne Su
As Japan lost its place as the second largest economy in the world, the number of Japanese “freeters” is remarkably increasing. “Freeters” is a term derived from the word “freedom” and the German word for worker, “arbeiter.” They are people who don’t have stable jobs and are engaged in low-skilled, low-pay part-time jobs.
About one-third of Japanese freeters live in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. Among them, 39 percent is comprised of males and 33 percent females.
One reason attributed to the rise in Japanese freeter population is the growing difficulty of having full-time jobs. Companies are hiring more part-time employees because of lower personnel costs and higher employment flexibility.
Most Japanese freeters are also “parasite singles” who continue to live with parents after college. Some are even unemployed and financed by their parents.
Another cause of the problem is that a diploma from even the most prestigious university in Japan like the University of Tokyo does not guarantee full-time employment. Japanese youths are becoming more “lost” and aimless in what they want to achieve in life.
In a study conducted by Yuki Honda of the University of Tokyo, she wrote, “This figure [Figure 3] gives us the impression that Japanese companies are even more reluctant to hire new university graduates than high school graduates.”
Japan’s rigid school-to-work system is unique for the reason that firms and corporations hire fresh-out-of-high-school-graduates to work. To keep the fresh graduate status, some Japanese rather go to graduate school or 2-year professional schools, known as “Senmon gakko,” while job hunting.
“Many establishments want to have fresh graduates so they are obedient. It’s crazy in my view,” says Kurokawa from CBC News.
An array of fresh graduates eventually get promoted to permanent working class positions or become the “salarymen,” who are the Japanese white-collar labor force.
According to Mary C. Brinton of Cornell University, who wrote an article on youth employment in Japan compared to that in the U.S., about 25 percent of the graduating Japanese high school students enter into the labor market. Only about 40 percent of them matriculate to junior colleges or universities. Japan has been known for its well-established system of connecting high school graduates to employers in the job market.
However, Japanese companies are cutting down the funds designated for professional training after one is admitted into a corporation.
Developing one’s talent in the arts or in music is another cause of the shift towards working part-time jobs for the young Japanese. The pressures from home to get married and form a family or to become salarymen retard the young Japanese in their search for and entrance into full-time jobs.
Many young Japanese escape from Japan to other countries such as the United States to in pursue artistic professions. There is more freedom and less pressure on what one wants to pursue in the U.S., some Japanese have commented.
But the youths of Japan will have to take into consideration the reality of the pension system from which their parents will receive aid after retirement.