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Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007
WOMEN AND WORK
Jobs journal reflects social change
By YOKO HANI
Back in 1980 when the weekly job-seekers' magazine Travail was launched, it was a social phenomenon that gave women the information they needed to independently switch jobs and build their careers. People even adopted the magazine's title (which means "work" in French, and is written in hiragana as torabayu) into conversations in phrases such as torabayu suru (do travail) when they were talking about changing jobs.
In those pre-Internet times, when faith in Japan's lifelong employment system was still unquestioned, Travail broke fresh ground in the steadily growing demographic of female workers soon to be supported by 1985's Equal Employment Opportunity Law.
Now, 27 years after that first issue, the pioneering job-hoppers' journal from Recruit Co. has recently taken another mighty step — by shifting all its classified advertisements to its online Travail site at toranet.yahoo.co.jp. This came alongside a revamped version of the print magazine that offers readers a range of well-illustrated career-related features.
Naoko Tsukamoto, editor in chief, says the strategic shift at Travail is a result of its quest "to stay half a step ahead of the times."
Before switching its ads to the online service, in fact, Travail staff had already noticed marked changes in its target readership's way of looking for jobs. That, it says, was apparent from an ever-growing number of responses to classified ads published on Travail's Web site alongside the print magazine. Circulation of the ¥210 magazine, on the other hand, had plunged within a few years from 300,000 to 100,000.
"I like print media and I still believe in its potential," Tsukamoto said. "But the number of people who look for jobs through the Net has been growing so rapidly and dramatically that I thought we should move online to provide services that today's customers want."
As a result, from this September, Travail's readers have been able to access the online magazine, which has 700 to 800 classified job ads that are updated every week. Also, the online version's "Today's Pick Up!" section features job information that's updated daily under different themed headings, such as "How to transform your hobbies into your work."
Of course, men can also apply for suitable job vacancies they find on the site, but, as it always has, Travail primarily presents information targeting women. Consequently, most users are women and about 60 percent are in their 20s and 30s. Tsukamoto said that since its remodeling, Travail has attracted an increasing number of users in their 20s.
In fact, the magazine's move reflects a general trend in the classified ad market. According to the Association of Job Information of Japan, the total number of classified ads on the Net in September was up 32 percent on the same month last year. Compared with other media, such as free papers and paid-for magazines, that rise is remarkably high.
But, interestingly, Travail has not ditched the print medium. In October, it relaunched Travail as a monthly glossy magazine featuring stories about working women in various occupations. Each ¥550 issue, which has about 180 pages, sets a theme such as "Work and Marriage," and includes interviews with 50 or more women.
"Women often have time to ask themselves such things as 'What do I want from work?' or 'What life do I want to live?' when they are on the train going to work or at home before they go to bed," Tsukamoto said.
"The monthly is aimed at helping them to think about these issues by presenting them with role models to inspire them to start searching for jobs. I didn't think it would be right for Travail to only offer classified ads on the Net."
For 33-year-old Tsukamoto, a 10-year veteran in the business, changing jobs is an entirely positive and natural step for workers who have achieved a certain level in one position and are looking to move their careers forward. Also, she said she senses that society has lately become more flexible with regard to individuals' working styles, including their wishes to change jobs.
"More people have started to regard job-changing as a chance to go to the next stage," she observed, "and that is why we have this increasing number of Internet sites for job information and so many job advertisements and job-changing support services."
Additionally, in the past, the age of 35 was generally accepted in Japan as the limit for changing jobs. But Tsukamoto says that is not true these days, and more and more jobs are being offered based on applicants' experience and skills rather than their age.
When Travail was born 27 years ago, a big challenge for the editors was how to change the negative perception surrounding job-changing, and to find more job offers for women. But now, Tsukamoto said, the challenge is to meet the demands of an increasing number of women who aim to keep working after marriage and childbirth.
Indeed, with the help of the equal-employment opportunities law introduced in 1985, women's presence in Japan's workforce has been steadily increasing. In 2006, according to figures from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, women accounted for 42 percent of the working population — compared with 34 percent in 1980. However, about 40 percent of those female workers were in part-time jobs of less than 35 hours a week — indicating that it was difficult for many of them to build careers. (In contrast, about 10 percent of male workers were in part-time jobs.)
"Recently, more and more women are seeking a way to avoid losing their career prospects if they take time out to have children," Tsukamoto said. "While supporting their chances to change their jobs, I would also like to support them by presenting them with job offers to meet their needs to keep working — such as information on jobs in companies where workers can have flexible working hours or take child-care leave."
In her own career, since joining Recruit 10 years ago, Tsukamoto worked in both print and Internet media before being appointed to the post of sixth editor in chief of Travail in August.
"I never imagined I would get this position, though I thought I may become the deputy editor," Tsukamoto said.
"Now I am very busy meeting with other companies as well as editing the magazine. But I try to make time to read books about women. I also watch women in town or on my way home — and my friend said that I always go to see films featuring women. Well, I think that's because I want to know what women want in their lives; I want to know what they think happiness is."
Clearly, that constitutes a pretty busy life, as Tsukamoto said that her mother even rang her, worried, to ask "if she was still alive" after contact lapsed as the launch of the online magazine swallowed up all her time.
"But my mother knows I do this because I like the job," Tsukamoto said. "I am busy, but now I really think, as the editor, that it is very important to see the big picture so that we can stay half a step ahead of the times."