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Friday, Dec. 10, 2010

Firms turning to foreign students

Kyodo News

University students are having a hard time finding jobs amid the economic downturn, with those who have secured employment starting after their scheduled graduation next spring hitting a record low of 57.6 percent as of Oct. 1.

But a new trend among firms to seek more aggressive and proactive employees may be creating more chances for foreign students looking for work experience in Japan, even in the increasingly competitive job market.

According to an August poll by job information provider DISCO Inc., 11 percent of responding firms said they have employed foreign students since April, and 21 percent said they plan to do so next fiscal year.

Rakuten Inc., the country's biggest online shopping mall operator, is one of the leading examples of firms opening up to foreign students.

The Tokyo-based company, which expects foreign employees to eventually comprise about half its workforce, began boosting its recruitment of foreign students in fiscal 2009.

It has already promised jobs to 78 students from 17 countries, accounting for about one-sixth of new employees slated to start next spring.

Among them is Cristina Popescu, 26, who came to Japan six years ago from Romania. Popescu grew up while the Eastern European country was democratizing, and state-run firms were collapsing.

"I've seen reports in Europe that say Japan is not doing well, but Japanese firms have technology and are creditworthy," said Popescu, a graduate student at Waseda University.

"I want to be involved in developing overseas markets once I enter the company and eventually start a business on my own to contribute to my homeland," she said. "I would be grateful if I can tie up with Rakuten then, too."

At the end of October, teams of Rakuten employees from nine countries gave presentations on elements they consider necessary for a company to become global.

Among the presentations, which reflected the unique views of the different nationalities, the American team listed flexibility and respect for individuality, while the Chinese team stressed the potential of China's market.

Meanwhile, Cross Marketing Inc., an Internet research company based in Tokyo, started to advertise at job fairs for foreign students from the end of June. The firm is also looking to recruit in China.

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