November 18, 2019
SAY (Safe Campus Youth Network)*:
Volunteering members from Keio University,
Soka University, University of Tokyo, Waseda University,
Voice Up Japan from International Christian University,
Speak Up Sophia from Sophia University,
SAYFT (Safe Campus Youth Network Faculty Team)
We are members of “SAY,” a network of volunteers in Tokyo who gather regularly as a study group about gender-based violence.
On occasions of job-hunting, we and our friends have experienced unfair and criminal harassment as a result of the significant power imbalance that job-seekers are subjected to.
Up to now, we have not been able to speak up about it. We decided to issue a statement here to express our voices and appeal to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, companies, and universities and to the society in general.
We hope that this statement may inspire more people in Japan to stand up against sexual harassments during job-hunting and that these harassments will be eliminated from Japanese society.
1. Complaints about the guidelines from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
On October 21, 2019, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare issued the “Draft of guidelines of measures that should be taken in terms of employment managements about power harassment at workplaces.” (Shortened to “guidelines on workplace harassment” below.)
However, this guideline on workplace harassment merely “recommends” companies to have preventative measures of harassment by companies against students who are seeking job (shortened to “job-hunting students” below) are only “ideal” and does not function at all as a deterrent against harassments.
Today, harassment against job-hunting students, especially sexual harassment against female students, is a serious issue that could interfere with the life choices on their career path.
According to the “emergency survey on sexual harassment during job-hunting” by Business Insider Japan in February 2019, 50% of job-hunting students have experienced sexual harassment during job-hunting;
the seriousness of this situation and the urgent need of measures can be seen from the content of the survey. For example, the article included a testimony that wrote: “I was invited to a house with an excuse that he would show me his notes that he kept during his job-hunting and was forced to drink a large amount of alcohol. While I was not fully conscious, he touched my body and ranked it and he made many comments that degraded me… I could not really do my job-hunting because of this incident of sexual harassment.” Quoted from an internet article originally in Japanese: 竹下郁子「OB訪問で自宅や個室で性行為強要、2人に1人の学生が就活セクハラ被害に。｢選考有利｣ちらつかせ」https://www.businessinsider.jp/post-185252 (Retrieved on November 10, 2019) [Ikuko Takeshita, “Forced sex at home or in private room during alum visits. One in two students are victims of sexual harassment during job-hunting. Implying preferential treatment.”] Business Insider, Feb 15, 2019. Accessed November 10, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.jp/post-185252
Additionally, the “Survey on Sexual Harassment during Job-hunting” done by Voice Up Japan (started on September 16, 2019, and still ongoing) collected voices from victims that said, for example, “an employee that I met through a job-hunting app invited me for dinner and touched my body inappropriately. And then he asked my address several times, saying that he would check and correct my job application at my house.” “When I was sitting, an employee tried to look inside my shirt from above.” “I leaned in to an employee because he was speaking softly and it was hard to hear him; but then he blew air to my ear.” Moreover, we have heard directly from fellow students who have had these encounters such as: “I was invited to his house when I was doing alumni visits.”
Based on the serious situation described above, we plead that the guidelines on workplace harassment be reviewed and modified and ask the Japanese society to work on the prevention of sexual harassment during job-hunting. No student should ever have to fall victim to sexual harassment during job-hunting.
2. Background of sexual harassment toward job-hunting students
2-1. The reality and the structure of job-hunting in Japan
In Japan, the status of “new graduate” is considered very important in looking for a job because most companies only employ new graduates. If students do not start working immediately after graduation, it could ruin their promising career paths. In short, job-hunting is a significant activity that influences our lives as students. Within this context, job-hunting students are very sensitive to how they are assessed as potential employers. When students experience sexual harassment by employees during job-hunting, it is difficult for them to resist or even express a sense of displeasure to perpetrators.
Moreover, Keidanren’s (Japan’s Business Federation) removal of the recruitment guidelines and the popularisation of the internet further complicate the job-hunting process. There are now multiple means of job-hunting such as visits to potential employers via job-hunting apps, ‘internship hiring’ (recruitment through internships), ‘referral hiring’ (recruitment through referral), alumni visits, and ‘recruiter system’ where younger employees not in the HR division are deployed to assess students. This means that job-hunting includes a wide range of means other than job interviews; therefore the actual job-hunting period is very long.
In this context, the power balance between job-hunting students and employers is totally unequal. Without any measures to prevent sexual harassment against job-hunting students, the job-seeking process itself can become a breeding ground for harassment, and there will always be a certain percentage of employees who will take advantage of their power. Putting pressure on students not to decline a job offer is another form of power harassment that exploits the same power imbalance that is manifested in sexual harassment. If the current situation continues, students will have no choice but to endure harassment and suffer in silence.
2-2 No protection of job-hunting students’ rights, caught between universities and companies
Job-hunting students are not “workers” employed by companies under the Japanese labor law. They are therefore not eligible to be protected by the law. For that reason, most students who experience harassment cannot even seek advice. However, the ‘Violence and Harassment Convention’ adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) covers jobseekers and job applicants as well, thereby providing them with legal protection. This demonstrates how narrow the range of application of the labor law that protects workers is in Japan.
Article 5 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in Japan states that “with regard to the recruitment and employment of workers, employers shall provide equal opportunities for all persons regardless of sex”. The current situation of job-hunting students, especially female students, experiencing sexual harassment indicates that the aim of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law as well as Article 5 is not being observed. Moreover, considering the current situation, job-hunting students don’t seem to be protected by this law at all.
To change the desperate situation of job-hunting students face, and to ensure that students do not fall into the legal cracks, it is necessary to create a seamless legal system to protect the rights of job-hunters at all time. Public consultation services and relief systems for victimized students are needed as well as measures to prevent harassment via mandatory education and training in companies. There must be rules to punish not only the perpetrators but also the companies who employ such people.
Equally serious are the lack of support systems and the lack of information sharing mechanisms about these problems in educational institutions, including universities. In recent years, universities have increasingly fostered relationships with companies to arrange corporate internships as part of the tertiary educational experience. Universities must ensure to urgently create support systems that students can rely on to report sexual harassment and get advice when they have any negative experiences during job-hunting and internships.
3. To the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, companies, and universities.
3-1. To the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
We demand that the government implement drastic measures to prevent sexual harassment while job-hunting. The guidelines on workplace harassment as of October 21st, 2019 need to be revised due to the following reasons:
3-1-1. Inadequate Countermeasures.
No. 15 of the 198th Diet Session’s Supplementary Resolution on the Legislative Bill Revising Laws on the Promotion of Women’s Empowerment in the Workplace states that “measures necessary to prevent harassment towards freelance workers, job-hunting students, teaching interns, etc. must be implemented in accordance with guidelines based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.” The workplace harassment guidelines, however, do not specify such “necessary measures.” Detailed prevention measures are needed, such as setting up harassment helpline for jobseekers and applicants within companies.
3-1-2. Vague guidelines
No. 9 of the 198th Diet Session’s Supplementary Resolution points out that guidelines must state that harassment towards clients and job-hunting students by employees needs consideration from an employment management perspective. In other words, what is stated in No. 4 of the harassment guidelines - “specific measures taken by owners against issues of verbal/nonverbal acts based on hierarchical power within the workplace” - must be applied to job-hunting students, but the guidelines only state vaguely that such policies be clarified. We demand that the following guidelines - 1. the clarification and dissemination of harassment policies, 2. the development of a system to provide support for, and deal with, harassment cases, 3. a swift, efficient response system to harassment within the workplace 4. the prohibition of disparate treatment of employees and protection of their privacy - be applied to job-hunting students as well as employees.
3-1-3. Impractical guidelines
Due to a very narrow definition of ‘workplace’, the current harassment guidelines exclude sexual harassment towards job-hunting students. In reality, many sexual harassment cases and sex crimes occur ‘outside of duty’, such as during alumni visits. The power imbalance between employee and job hunter makes it impossible for the job hunter to resist harassment, letting the harassment go unchecked, especially since the job hunter is expected to act like a potential employee/subordinate. The current harassment guidelines are inadequate, as they do not put forward any potential solutions to this issue. We ask for the guidelines to implement practical rules based on a correct understanding of the nature of sexual harassment, and for a comprehensive survey of sexual harassment aimed at job hunters, companies, and universities.
3-2 To Companies: Request of awareness and behavior demonstrative of corporate social responsibility
It is unacceptable that young people, who will lead the future, are not able to work in their desired path or develop difficulty to even work because of sexual harassment while job-hunting. In the job-hunting activities that influence the lives of young people, companies themselves are asked to ensure the safety of students. This is because companies are required to take socially responsible actions for the sustainable development of society. It is important from the viewpoint of corporate social responsibility to nurture young people who will lead the future, protect the human rights of vulnerable job-hunting students, and maintain a sound job-hunting environment. These are necessary conditions to bring about a healthy growth.
3-3 To Universities: Request to fulfill obligations as an educational institution
Measures against sexual harassment while job-hunting on the university side are also insufficient. Students who have experienced sexual harassment while job-hunting will not be protected from the code of conduct within the company or from government law. There is a potential that the harm done to their minds and bodies will impede their studies. We believe that it is an educational institution's duty to create an environment where students can concentrate on their studies and provide appropriate guidance on career selection and job-hunting after graduation.
Rather than waiting for the victims of the university to speak out, in order to prevent further increase in the number of victims, career centers should conduct a survey of the actual situation of sexual harassment while job-hunting among current students, disseminate the information about risks of sexual harassment while job-hunting, and offer consultation on job-hunting measures such as setting up support centers. Also, the role of the university is to show companies that they will not tolerate sexual harassment while job-hunting.
As shown above, we request that related organizations take serious measures so that no more students will be deprived of their future due to sexual harassment while job-hunting. Ｗe therefore demand to the parties involved that, in making important decisions regarding job-hunting students, they take effective and concrete measures that fully reflect the voices of the students.
* If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact SAYFT members, Kaori Hayashi (Professor, University of Tokyo) and Mari Miura (Professor, Sophia University), by email to sayft2019 at gmail.com. Please replace "at" by @
See also the Japanese statement
Statement Demanding Implementation and Effective Measures to Prevent Sexual Harassment in Job-hunting