JILPT Research Report No.154
Work and consciousness of 30s in Tokyo:
From "the survey on the working style of 30s"

March 21, 2013


Research Objective

To clarify the present occupations and lifestyles of the current 30s generation, called "the employment ice age generation".

Research Method

A questionnaire survey of 2,000 people in their 30s in Tokyo based on area sampling. (July-October 2011)

Major Findings

  1. The employment status immediately after leaving education is strongly influenced by educational background and the state of the economy when leaving education (i.e. job-search period).
  2. Of those in a status of non-employment or atypical employment immediately after leaving education, around 70% of males and 50% of females had at least temporarily been regular employees during their 30s. Half of these had switched to regular employee status within three years after leaving education. Among males who leave education during a recession, a transition to regular employee status is more likely to occur when the economy subsequently recovers, but less likely if a long time has passed since leaving education. Moreover, the rate of transition increases in proportion to the level of educational background.
  3. Comparing those "who have consistently been regular employees" with those "changing to regular employee from other formats", the former more frequently worked for large corporations, received higher average monthly salaries, and had a higher rate of enrolment in social security and labor unions. The wage gap was wider than when they were in their 20s. In the 20s survey, a tendency was seen for experience of atypical employment to be valued in the "changing to regular employee from other formats" type. On comparing levels of "satisfaction with life" in this survey, however, those in the "changing to regular employee from other formats" type were significantly lower. In many cases, they returned to atypical employment or otherwise drifted in and out of atypical employment even after temporarily becoming regular employees, showing that the barrier between atypical employment and regular employee status is not so high. Nevertheless, there is thought to be a barrier compared to regular employee status that gives satisfaction with life.
  4. The 30s generation has always been strongly oriented to skills and qualifications, but the ratio of those who have "self-confidence" due to seniority and experience is higher than in the current 20s generation. Confidence in skills and qualifications can particularly be perceived in those with experience of career changes as regular employees.
  5. "Freeters" are progressively changing to regular employees, although giving rise to problems with the "quality" of regular employees. Overall, however, they are gradually finding their respective places in society as they reach their 30s. Nevertheless, there are also some who still have the status of atypical employees but aspire to full employee status, although these do not occupy a significant proportion of the whole.
  6. In the past, the transition path from "freeter" to regular employee was often provided at a young age through personal network, promotion from atypical employment, and introductions by schools. However, a higher proportion of those making this transition in recent years have made use of public employment service, albeit in small numbers.
  7. The current 20s generation has a higher percentage of freeters than the 30s generation, called "the employment ice age generation".
  8. Although this generation had a high level of empathy with freeters while in their 20s, once in their 30s, a change toward preferring stability and affirming the status quo can be perceived overall. Meanwhile, although there was previously little difference between the awareness of freeters and non-freeters, males not in employment and male atypical employees are particularly negative about their own jobs and lives. This illustrates a growing difference in awareness in the 30s. A difference depending on employment format, which was not very clear in the 20s, has also become clear.
  9. It was found that past experience of counseling – or specifically, experience of counseling before graduating (dropping out) on what to do after graduating (dropping out) – may also have an effect on the nature of counseling networks at a later time in the present (see Figures). It was also confirmed that experience of counseling before graduation, particularly among those who were unable to become regular employees or civil servants upon graduation, may be somehow connected to the transition to regular employee later in their careers. The possibility remains, however, that this connection could be merely partial or indirect. Experience of seeking advice from others on their own future not only has significance at that point in time, but could also have certain ongoing effects, even after the passage of time (see Figures).

Figure 1 Correlation between experience of counseling before graduation and the number of counseling channels for concerns over current jobs and working styles
(age 30-39, counselor = school teacher)

Image, Figure1

 Expanded view
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Figure 2 Correlation between experience of counseling before graduation and the number of counseling channels for concerns over future lifestyles and working styles
(age 30-39, counselor = school teacher)

Image, Figure2

 Expanded view
* If link does not expand, please click again.

Policy Implications

  1. Expanding policy support for the "forgotten" 30s generation and the 20s generation who live within a narrower labor market.
  2. Highlighting diverse paths for transition through collaboration between Hello Work (PES), senior high schools and universities; taking steps to expand the disclosure of corporate information (particularly on the employment environment and early job-quitting).
  3. Enhancing opportunities for counseling while at school (particularly when entering atypical employment upon graduation).
  4. The need for fixed-point observation surveys.

Policy Contribution

Expected to be used as basic data for youth employment support policies.


  1. Cover – Preface – Authors – Contents
  2. Introduction  Problem Awareness and Survey Outline
  3. Chapter 1  Overview of vocational careers in the 30s
  4. Chapter 2  Characteristics of vocational ability development by the 30s generation and transition from “freeters”
  5. Chapter 3  Work and life awareness of big city dwellers in their 30s
  6. Chapter 4  Aspects of 30s counseling networks – past and present
  7. Chapter 5  Factors influencing problem awareness in employment and jobs
  8. Appendices

Research Categories

Project Research "Research on Vocational Capability Development System in Response to Economic and Social Changes"

Subtheme "Survey Research on smooth job transitions by young people"

Research Period



Research Director, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Yukie HORI
Vice Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Akinori KISHI
Research Assistant, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Associate Research Fellow, The Institute for Research on Household Economics
Professor, Graduate School of Education, The University of Tokyo

JILPT Research Report at a Glance