Hiring Practices in Japan and in France: Search for a first job begins one year ahead of graduation in Japan while in France it begins after graduation (2)

Mr. Hiromasa Suzuki
Emeritus Professor, Waseda University
Associated researcher at IDHE-ENS-Cachan, France Fellow Researcher


In France, the search for the first job is less institutionalised and depends on individual qualification. In general, students apply for the first job, once they have obtained their diploma (in June).  The speciality field of diploma determines the possibility of application; if a student followed law degree, she/he has to look for a job related with law. For technical jobs, only students of natural sciences and technologies have a chance to get technical jobs. As a rule, the power to recruit new employees is decentralised to each functional units. If there are vacancies in these units, employment notice will be released, which specifies job description and required qualifications. Candidates are in general interviewed by the manager of the unit concerned, together with the human resource manager. They are recruited for a specific job.


This traditional pattern of hiring is today somehow modified, largely due to a slumping employment situation. A number of students undertake apprenticeship programme by which they work in enterprises during summer holidays to acquire a good knowledge of the job. If these trainees give an entire satisfaction, it is likely that they will be offered a job by the enterprise after graduation. Another exception is the students of so-called ‘grandes écoles’. These are highly selective engineering schools and business schools. Enterprises are eager to recruit these brilliant students for managerial posts. For the bulk of university graduates with background of humanities or social sciences, it is not easy to get a suitable first job. Nowadays, they are offered at best a temporary position with fixed term employment contract. It is by getting occupational experiences that they can get a stable employment.


Finally, some remarks on a comparative point of view. Japanese hiring practice is based on the assumption that employees, once recruited, stay in the same enterprise for a long-time, while in French enterprises, occupational knowledge to fill specified jobs is required. It is important to underline that this Japanese hiring practice is limited to large organizations and permanent employees. Non regular workers, that is, part-time workers and fixed term workers are excluded from career employment track. But, a typical employment has been continually on the rise and accounts for nearly 40% of all workers. Moreover, there are also those who quit the first job, dissatisfied with work or human relations. One out of three among university graduates and half of high-school leavers are estimated to quit the first enterprise over three years after initial employment. Once out of the traditional track, those who move face very limited opportunity for good and stable jobs, due to an underdevelopment of the labour market. They are likely to move to service sectors with much less satisfying conditions of work and career prospect.


In France, changing jobs when workers are young is part of their career plan. One may say that French workers manage themselves their career plan, while in Japan, it is up to enterprises to provide career prospect for their employees.

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