Sexual harassment of graduating job hunters raises alarms in Japan

An app that matches alumni with students is displayed on a smartphone.
Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

Over 25% of graduating college students said they had been sexually harassed while job hunting, according to a survey conducted by Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry.

It is believed that in many cases students have been quiet about the harassment because of their position as job seekers.

As students graduating next spring start actively looking for jobs, the ministry is gathering information from these students and strengthening administrative guidance for companies.

Last April, the labor ministry released the results of a survey on sexual harassment conducted on 1,000 men and women who had gone through job hunting or internships. According to the survey, 255 of the 1,000 respondents reported being asked sexual questions, being teased, or being propositioned.

The most common response to the question of what action was taken in response to the sexual harassment was “nothing” with the reason given being “disadvantageous to job hunting.”


The Labour Lawyers Association of Japan held consultations with students online via the Line app from last summer through February this year. Students reported that they had been touched on the shoulders and buttocks at a karaoke bar to “practice their bowing,” and that they had been pressured to have sexual relationships at a hotel by an employee who was an alumnus of their university.

“Some students have given up job hunting because of the trauma,” said Yumi Hasegawa, one of the lawyers on the legal team. “The reality is more serious than expected.”

According to the Japan Harassment Counselor Association in Osaka, even during hiring activities conducted online following the spread of the novel coronavirus, interviewees have been asked to move the camera to show their rooms or their loungewear.

There have also been an increasing number of cases of students being victimized by using apps to match them with alumni at a company and meeting that person without going through company channels.


The labor ministry has begun to strengthen measures against sexual harassment in job hunting and internship this spring based on the results of its survey.

From March, labor bureaus in various regions have been holding on-site lectures at universities on the topic of sexual harassment during job hunting, teaching students how to prevent being harmed. The ministry has also begun to individually interview students who have been victims of sexual harassment to find out what happened.

The law that deals with securing equal opportunity and treatment between men and women in employment obliges companies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Since job hunters are not classified as “workers,” these companies are not obligated to prevent sexual harassment in hiring. The guidelines of the law only state that it is “desirable” to make efforts to take appropriate measures.

Therefore, there are limited measures against companies named as “perpetrators” of sexual harassment of job seekers, such as giving them administrative guidance to improve.

The ministry has decided to change the conventional method of merely handing out guidance documents and to confirm measures for improvement the target company is making. The aim is to encourage the companies to take thorough measures through continuous checks.

If there is a risk that a student who has reported the harassment might be identified, the ministry will take measures such as also giving administrative guidance to other companies in the same industry.

From the school year starting this month, the ministry began a training program for companies to prevent harassment not only of workers but also of job-seekers.

“Having employees who take advantage of the weak position of students and engage in sexual harassment has to be detrimental to a company’s image,” a ministry official said. “We will take necessary measures through guidance and training.”

Kaname Murasaki, representative director of the Japan Harassment Counselor Association, said that students also need to raise their awareness and protect themselves.

“Students should be fully aware of a company’s hiring process,” Murasaki said. “If they are asked to dine in private, they should ask if it is necessary for hiring.”