JILPT Research Report No.201
The Current State of the Japanese-Style Employment System for High School Graduates:
Based on Case Studies of 1997, 2007, and 2017

September 10, 2018


Research Objective

This report elucidates how the “Japanese-style” employment (work-entry) system for high school graduates has changed. By “Japanese-style” system, high school students secure employment in the context of stable and long-standing relationships between high schools and companies, described in Japanese as “semiformal contracts” (jisseki kankei, literally, relationship based on past results). This is a continuous labor supply and demand relationship between high schools and companies founded on trust. This relies on approaches such as the “preferential school system” (by which employers send job openings information only to specific schools and those schools conduct the internal selections of candidates to recommend) and the “one-student-for-one employer system” (where a student can apply to only one employer at a time with the school’s nomination).

Research Method

Interview survey

Main Findings

The current state of the Japanese-style employment system for high school graduates

The Japanese-style employment system for high school graduates has undergone substantial changes and is now updated to keep up with the times, supported by jisseki kankei, “preferential school system” and the “one-student-for-one-employer system.” While approaches such as the preferential school system and the one-student-for-one-employer system are still generally adopted, the focus of the process of matching students with jobs employers offer has shifted toward students’ satisfaction, and thereby ensuring that graduates do not give up employment at an early stage due to the job being unsuited to them. More specifically, it was found that pre-selection within schools was more limited, and high schools were making efforts to provide a wide range of information to students while they were selecting companies to apply to (through internships, company information sessions held in school, career connection sessions for students and industry representatives and other such events hosted by business groups, and career guidance and education). With the growing influence of the information such as advice from alumni and alumnae network of extracurricular activity via a social networking site or the instant messaging application “LINE” (with free text and free call features), or information available on the internet—there is an increasing tendency for students to take their own initiative in the process of selecting the companies they apply to. As a new trend in the last ten years, there has also been a growing demand for job-seeking support for students with developmental disabilities and students with non-Japanese nationality.

The ongoing relationships between high schools and companies

Currently in Japan, the ongoing relationships between high schools and companies have been weakening. In Figure 1, a higher percentage of “non-one-off hiring companies” (companies that hired a student or students from the specific school on two or more occasions, among the total number of companies that hired students from the school during the observation period) equates to higher continuity in the relationships between high schools and employers. The results indicate that general high schools and commercial high schools have seen a decrease in the continuity of their relationships with employers, while technical high schools have seen a consistent level of continuity in such relationships. The school’s curriculum is a significant factor in the continuity of its relationships with companies, regardless of the companies’ labor market categories.

Figure 1. Percentage of “non-one-off hiring companies” (the percentage of companies that hired a student or students on twice or more during the observation period)
Figure 1

  • Source: Created using data from Table 3-2
  • Notes: 1997 Survey: High school graduates who entered employment between the late 1980s and the late 1990s
    2017 Survey: High school graduates who entered employment between the late 2000s and the late 2010s
    Number of graduates entering employment in 2017 and observation period of this survey are respectively shown in the parentheses:
    Nagano M Technical High School (149 graduates; 10 years), Saitama Technical E High School (121 graduates; five years),
    Shimane R Commercial High School (30 graduates; eight years), Tokyo General A High School (22 graduates; 10 years)

Macro-level analysis of changes in the labor market for high school graduates

  • The current increase in job openings for high school graduates can be attributed to the increase in demand for workers in the construction and long-term care industries. There has been only a small rise in job openings in the manufacturing industry, the main destination for high school graduates entering employment. Approximately, 40% of high school graduates entering employment are graduates from the general education course (futsū-ka), namely, those who have studied a comprehensive academic curriculum. With the restructuring of vocational curricula (senmon gakka) into combined vocational and academic curricula (sōgō gakka) due to the declining birth rate, there has been a particular decline in the number of graduates of the commercial course (shōgyō-ka) whose curriculum focuses on business and other subjects related to commerce. Looking at the types of jobs that male graduates enter, almost all male graduates from the technical course (kōgyō-ka) whose curriculum focuses on industry and manufacturing find employment in production linework, while half of those from the general course find employment in production line work. In the case of female graduates, nearly half of the graduates from the commercial course choose clerical jobs, while graduates of the general course choose jobs in service and production line work.
  • Though in the past economic turnaround from recession prompted an increase in high school graduates finding employment outside of their home prefecture, the 2017 survey indicated a growing tendency for high school graduates to remain in their home areas. This contrasts with the trend in the period of economic prosperity prior to the 2008 global financial crisis. While in the period prior to 2008, it was the export-oriented manufacturing industries that were generating greater numbers of job openings for high school graduates; in 2017, it was the construction and long-term care industries generating larger numbers of job openings. This reflected a difference in labor market demand, that is, a lower number of job openings outside of graduates’ home areas.
  • On the basis of three factors related to the high school graduate labor market—(i)Relocation outside of the hometown prefecture, (ii) State in labor supply and demand, and (iii) Job vacancy fields (industries in which job openings were available)—the seven prefectures covered in the case studies were divided into three types under these three factors: areas with a workforce inflow (Tokyo Metropolitan Area and Saitama Prefecture), areas in good balance between workforce supply and demand (Nagano Prefecture), and areas with a workforce outflow (Akita , Shimane, Aomori , and Kochi Prefecture). All three types of the areas had a labor shortage, but in the areas with a workforce outflow, the ratio of job openings to applicants had risen due to the increase in job openings combined with the decrease in high school graduates seeking work. Even in the areas with a workforce inflow, there has been a rise in the number of job openings in the construction and long-term care industries, and a relative decline in the proportion of job openings in the manufacturing industry. The rise in job openings in construction and long-term care is expected to increase the number of graduates remaining in their home area for employment.
    In the areas with a workforce outflow, a growing trend of high school graduates entering employment in their home prefectures was also observed (Figure 2). Efforts aimed at facilitating employment in home prefectures by encouraging local companies to announce their job openings earlier (as they tended to do this later than companies in the areas with a workforce inflow) appear to have had some effect.

Figure 2. Trends in prefectures with workforce-outflow in the percentage of high school graduates taking employment outside of their home prefecture
Figure 2

  • Source: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), School Basic Survey (annual survey)

Changes in hiring patterns among companies hiring high school graduates

  • According to the results of the company surveys, we identified three patterns in the hiring of high school graduates. Pattern A is companies did not find issues with the quality (level of ability) of high school graduates, but still, had to reduce their hiring on occasion in slow economy. The majority of companies surveyed fell under Pattern A.
  • Pattern B companies noted the reduced quality of high school graduates and either cut hiring or resumed (or were about to resume) hiring in spite of the inferior quality. Some of the companies that resumed hiring (or were about to resume hiring) reverted to hiring high school graduates following difficulties determining wages and other such working conditions for university graduates hired as crafts (ginōkō) to engage in line work. Some other companies were making more active efforts to hire high school graduates, given that the high school graduates hired by the company due to a lack of university graduate recruits had remained in employment with the company as a result of the company’s human resources training policies.
  • Pattern C companies have created new personnel systems for selecting and promoting high school graduates engaged in line work (ginō-shoku) to roles requiring specialist knowledge or technical skill (gijutsu-shoku), on the ground that high-quality high school graduates are hired while it is difficult to hire capable university graduates.

Policy Implications

  1. Development of labor policies that reflect the changes in the Japanese-style employment system for high school graduates
  2. Career Assistance with interpreting workplace information from sources other than schools or Hello Work (public employment security office)
  3. Enhancement of support by Hello Work for increasing the opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience of companies
  4. Considerable career assistance for students requiring special support
  5. Additional support in response to changes in teachers responsible for providing guidance for graduate employment in high schools

Policy Contribution

  • This report will be used to assist work (analysis, planning, and formulating proposals, etc.) on measures for job-seeking support for high school graduates and other such persons.
  • It will also be used as basic reference material for discussions regarding suitable approaches to the “one-student-for-one-employer system.”

Main Text (only available in Japanese)

Research Categories

Research Project: “Research on Vocational Skills Development for Diverse Needs”

Subtheme: “Research on the Employment of Young People: Their Smooth Transition into Employment and Career Development”
In response to survey research on changes in the employment of high school graduates and the “Emergency Survey to Assess the Current State of the One-Student-for-One-Employer System in the Recruitment of High School Graduates”

Research Period

April 2017-March 2018


Yukie Hori
Senior Researcher, Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Reiko Kosugi
Research Director, Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Yukiko Kanazaki
Former Research Director General, Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Mitsuhiro Ogawa
Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Ehime University
Megumi Oguro
Assistant Fellow, Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Miki Tsutsui
Professor, Faculty of Lifelong Learning and Career Studies, Hosei University


Employment / Unemployment

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