But beginning next year, these rules will no longer apply. Last October, the Keidanren announced it would abolish the traditional job-hunting schedule as well as existing guidelines on how firms recruit new graduates. After six decades, the current cohort of third- and fourth-year students will be the last to experience the gruelling pressures that come with shūkatsu.
As Japan’s low birth-rate has resulted in a population decline over the last decade, companies have been competing for a shrinking pool of prospective employees. Non-Keidanren members, not bound by the guidelines, have been snapping up promising students before member companies have even started recruiting.
And with foreign firms offering higher salaries and faster career progression than their Japanese counterparts, global competition for workers has forced companies to re-think. Although Keidanren’s new guidelines are yet to be finalised, some Japanese millennials who have already gone against the grain suggest that prioritising passion over following societal rules can lead to a more fulfilling career.