Banking no longer most popular career among Japanese university graduates

Cheerleaders help Japanese students get fired up during a job-hunting kick-off party held at Meiji University in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Feb 2, 2018.
Cheerleaders help Japanese students get fired up during a job-hunting kick-off party held at Meiji University in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Feb 2, 2018. THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

TOKYO (JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With this year's job-hunting season starting on Thursday (March 1), the number of Japanese wishing to work in the banking industry has seen a drastic decline among university students graduating in spring 2019 - a surprising change from the previous year.

The trend apparently comes from students' growing feeling of anxiety towards the industry, which has experienced declining revenues due to ultralow interest rates and in which major banks are planning large-scale personnel downsizing.

The banking industry had long enjoyed popularity among students, attracting quality job-hunters. However, the current trend is expected to have a certain influence on the job market.

At Meiji University's Surugadai Campus in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, about 300 mainly third-year students attended an in-school job seminar on Monday targeting those seeking careers in the banking industry.

The number of participants this year is about half the number who attended the same seminar around the same season last year, when the about 500-seat room was packed, with nearly 100 attending the seminar standing up.

In the past, more than 100 students graduating from Meiji University alone have secured jobs each year at three megabanks: the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc.

However, a 22-year-old male student majoring in finance at the commerce faculty said: "I changed my option from banks to the medical machinery industry, as I was looking for an industry that will grow even in the era of a low birthrate."

According to a job trend survey conducted by job information provider Disco Inc. every February, mainly on third-year students, the banking industry had been the most popular career target for eight consecutive years from 2010 - when the survey was first conducted with its current method - until last year.

However, it fell to fourth place this year. The percentage of job-seekers looking at banks was 16.2 percent, down 8.3 percentage points in two years. The survey has shown a decline in the popularity of the banking industry, although the ranking may change in the future.

Meanwhile, information and internet services moved up to first place in the ranking from fifth the previous year, followed by materials and chemistry (up from third last year), and then fisheries and food products (down from second).

The information service and internet industry is expected to see further growth with the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, and other technology. The fisheries and food industry has a healthy image, drawing popularity among female job-seeking students, while the materials and chemistry industry attracts applicants due to Japanese companies' strength in carbon fibers.

The three megabanks have announced plans to cut nearly 30,000 employees by fiscal 2026. But while the banking industry is expected to see a significant reduction in the number of employees necessary for operations due to an introduction of AI in the future, the information and internet services industry is expected to see wider opportunity to secure talented human resources.

Some major banks have taken such steps as offering job seminars and internships more frequently or bringing those events forward in order to secure excellent students.

Keiko Hirano of Bunkahoso Career Partners' job information research center said, "It's reasonable that the popularity of banks has fallen to a certain degree as a result of personnel cuts and other factors."

"Students willing to work at banks tend to have a comparatively stronger orientation toward stability. However, those students are shifting their job options to the information technology industry, which actively advertises its pleasant working environment, such as telework systems, or to dependable manufacturers," Hirano said.