7. Career guidance to support career progression and transitions

In a changing world of work, adults might be faced with changes in their job content or in their possible career pathways. Some adults might see that the skills that they have no longer correspond with the needs of the labour market. As discussed in Chapter 1, a substantial share of jobs in Japan are likely to change because of automation, and therefore many workers will need to prepare for these changes. Moreover, as non-standard forms of employment (such as part-time work, multiple jobs and non-regular employment) are on the rise in Japan, adults might need to change jobs more frequently. As a result, adults may increasingly be looking for new employment opportunities, for ways to advance in their career or change their career pathways, and for upskilling and reskilling opportunities. However, adults may face issues in identifying relevant employment or career progression opportunities and the associated training needs. Career guidance, provided internally by employers and externally by qualified counsellors, can help adults navigate the many different options and guide their choices.

The Basic Survey of Human Resource Development shows that a substantial share of workers in Japan face issues related to self-development because they do not have a clear idea of what they want for their career. Among workers who report self-development issues, 19% of regular and 23% of non-regular workers report that they do not know what their career pathway looks like, while 22% of regular and non-regular workers say that they do not know which training programme is relevant for their career. This suggests that workers could benefit from more support in their career development.

Career guidance could also serve to increase interest in training by providing more information about the benefits of training, existing training programmes and available support measures (e.g. subsidies). Data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) show that only 12% of adults in Japan who did not participate in formal or non-formal job-related training report that there were learning activities that they wanted to participate in but did not. This means that the remaining 88% of adults who did not participate in training were not interested or did not find any training that matched their interest. This share is higher than the OECD average (83%), and only seven OECD countries have a higher share of adults with no interest in training. It is highest in Japan among adults without a tertiary education degree, and is higher among men than among women and among young and older workers than among prime age workers. Moreover, employed and inactive adults are much more likely to have a low interest in training than unemployed adults.

Around 42% of adults in Japan say they like learning new things to a high or very high extent (see Figure 7.1). This is substantially lower than the OECD average of 70% and only in Korea is the proportion lower. All else equal, men in Japan are more likely than women to say they like learning new things to a high or very high extent.1 This is also the case for adults with tertiary education attainment relative to lower educated adults, and for adults with stronger cognitive skills and those who possess basic ICT skills relative to, respectively, those with poor cognitive skills and those with poor ICT skills. Inactive adults are less likely to like learning new things than employed and unemployed adults. Finally, adults with health problems are less interested in learning new things than those who report to be in good health. There are no significant differences between age groups.

These results show that more could be done to engage with adults who have a limited perspective on their future career and low interest in training to help them understand of the importance of training, develop a career plan and identify the most suitable training options. Unfortunately, exposure to career guidance in Japan is limited. A survey among adults in Japan showed that 11% of adults had participated in career counselling activities at least once in the past (Shimomura, 2017[1]). The probability of having engaged in such activities is highest among younger age groups, highly educated workers employed for long periods in large firms, and adults with strong awareness of their own skills and career opportunities. Employees from large firms, regular workers, workers with long tenure, and workers with high earnings are more likely to engage in career counselling provided within the firm and less likely than other types of workers to participate in career guidance services delivered by public institutions. Adults who had an interest in independently planning their career and improving their skills, and those who were interested in changing jobs, participated mostly in counselling activities outside the firm. Most adults who participated in any type of counselling activity found it very useful, and many report that it helped them get a clearer view on their future, find a job, or change jobs. Similarly, data from the Human Resource Development Survey show that only 13% of workers employed in firms with at least 30 employees participated in some form of career guidance counselling (within or outside the firm) in 2017. Workers aged 20-30 years old are most likely to participate in such services, and the share of workers participating in career guidance is more than twice as high among regular than non-regular workers (16% vs. 7%).

Career guidance is not only of crucial importance throughout one’s working life, but also when making education choices and starting one’s career. This type of guidance can help students form more realistic expectations about their careers and understand their possible career pathways and lifelong learning needs. While career guidance for students is outside the scope of this report, Box 7.1 highlights that access to career guidance in Japanese schools is low from an international perspective. This could have detrimental effects later in life if workers have incorrect expectations about their career or limited understanding of what their career pathway can look like.

Workers can advance their careers by changing jobs while staying at the same employer, or by changing employer. The Japanese lifetime employment system, as discussed in Chapter 2, is based on workers staying with the same employer for their entire working lives. In such a system, it is important for workers to have internal career progression opportunities to ensure that they remain motivated and their skills are put to the best possible use. Moreover, as the content of jobs is changing, an effective internal career progression system can help with an optimal reallocation of workers and with supporting workers in adapting to new tasks or roles. However, as structural changes could imply that workers will change employers more frequently, support for making external career transitions also becomes increasingly important. Therefore, not only do workers need to be able to access career guidance services provided by their employer, but also independent services to support them when looking for jobs outside their current firm.

As discussed in Chapter 2, average tenure among Japanese workers is long from an international perspective. Having long tenure does not automatically mean that workers do the same job for a long time. Employers generally offer internal career progression opportunities to their employees, allowing them to move to new tasks or positions in line with their skills, interests and career aspirations. This raises productivity through the re-allocation of skills and through better skill use and increase motivation and satisfaction among workers.

When asking Japanese workers about how satisfied they are with their job, 9% say they are extremely satisfied and 50% that they are satisfied (see Figure 7.3). This is relatively low from an international perspective, with only Korea having a lower share of workers satisfied or extremely satisfied with their job. On average across OECD countries, 26.5% of workers report to be extremely satisfied with their job and an additional 52% are satisfied.

The mismatch analysis in Chapter 1 already highlighted the fact that the link between tenure and mismatch in Japan looks different than it does across OECD countries. While longer tenure is found to be associated with a lower probability of over-qualification and a higher probability of under-qualification in the OECD average (controlling for other personal and work characteristics), a similar relationship is not found in Japan. This result suggests that on average in OECD countries workers tend to move to jobs with increasing skill requirements while this is not the case in Japan. Possible reasons could be that Japanese workers are less likely to develop their skills throughout working life, or that employers place a lower value on skills and experience acquired outside the education system or have difficulties in evaluating workers’ skills.

One way for workers to advance in their career is to obtain more management responsibilities. According to data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), 30% of workers in Japan manage other employees in their job and 10% of workers are employed in management occupations. This is very similar to what is observed on average across OECD countries, where these shares equal 29% and 12%, respectively. However, as Figure 7.4 shows, there are substantial differences between Japan and the OECD average when looking at management responsibilities at different lengths of tenure. Japanese workers with tenure shorter than 10 years are less likely than in an average OECD country to manage other workers in their job. By contrast, Japanese workers with very long tenure (more than 20 years) are more likely to have this type of responsibility in their job than workers with very long tenure on average across OECD countries. Similarly, workers with tenure shorter than 20 years are less likely to be employed in management occupations in Japan than in the OECD average, while the opposite holds for workers with longer tenure. These data suggest that progression to management roles is slower in Japanese firms than it is on average across OECD countries. Earlier research has shown that managers in Japan are more likely to take seniority into account for the determination of promotion than managers in Germany and the United States (Pudelko, 2006[3]). These findings are consistent with the practice in Japan to reward workers based on seniority (see Chapter 2), and reforms to seniority-based HR practices could make it easier for workers to progress in their career.

Employers can help their workers in understanding and achieving their possible career pathways by communicating clearly about the different career progression opportunities that exist within the firm, the requirements to advance in one’s career and the available skill development opportunities offered or supported by the employer. Such career guidance services need to be personalised, based on the workers’ career aspirations and skills.

An increasing share of employers in Japan are providing career-counselling services to their workers:2 44.5% of firms reported having a system to provide such services in 2017, compared to only 24% in 2012 (Basic Survey of Human Resource Development). Large firms are more likely than small ones to provide guidance: 65% of firms with more than 1 000 employees have a system for career counselling, compared to less than 40% among firms with at most 300 employees. While there considerable differences in guidance practices among firms, career-counselling services are mostly provided by Japanese employers when they are believed to affect the most workers’ motivation, such as during the annual performance evaluation round, in the event of a promotion, before and after childcare leave, etc.

Among firms not providing career counselling, the main reason for not doing so is a lack of demand for these services from workers (46% of firms that do not offer career counselling). Difficulties also arise in terms of finding workers to deliver these services: one in three firms report that it is difficult to train workers to act as career counsellors, and a quarter of firms have difficulties in allocating workers to provide counselling. The cost of hiring an external career counsellor is also an obstacle for around 25% of firms that do not provide counselling services. Finally, around a quarter of firms say that their workers do not have time for participating in career counselling activities.

To promote high-quality career counselling, the Japanese Government introduced a national qualification in the area of career counselling in 2016. Individuals who obtain this qualification need to renew it every five years. The most common way to obtain this qualification is to pass the exam after taking a 150-hour training course that covers topics such as the importance of career consulting, counselling techniques, general job and labour market knowledge, and collaboration with other career counselling networks.3 By mid-2019, around 44 000 individuals were registered as qualified career counsellor, and the goal is to increase this to 100 000 by 2024. Trained counsellors mostly work with companies to provide advice to workers (40% of career counsellors’ activities), with job coordination organisation like Hello Work (24%) and with education institutions to help students with their education and career choices (20%). Only 11% of training career counsellors work as a freelance, self-employed or volunteer counsellor. The majority of trained counsellors work as employees (68%), suggesting that firms either hire a dedicated counsellor or appoint one of their workers to deliver (potentially on a part-time basis) counselling services. Trained counsellors differ strongly in the intensity with which they carry out counselling activities: 32% of training counsellors say to provide their services on a daily basis and 20% at least once a week but not every day, while 28% say they work irregularly and 20% are not active as counsellor. Reasons for inactivity include that counsellors work in a department unrelated to career consulting or there is a lack of demand for counselling services.

In spite of these efforts, only 9% of the firms that provide some form of counselling to their workers make use of a qualified career counsellor (internal or external), and this share has remained stable in the last five years. More needs to be done to promote the services of external career counsellors or to make firms aware of the benefits of having one or more workers qualify as a career counsellor to deliver high-quality counselling services in-house.

Qualified career counsellors could not only be mobilised to directly provide guidance to workers, but also to train managers on how to support their team members’ career progression and skills development (Fujimoto et al., 2017[4]). A recent survey among workers in Japanese firms showed that only 53% of workers are satisfied with the guidance and support they receive from their manager. However, among workers who are satisfied overall, their satisfaction mainly relates to the current job (e.g. advice on how to do current job, providing knowledge to do current job, counselling on current job). Only 37% of those who are satisfied overall and 10% of those not satisfied report to be happy with the guidance given by their manager on their potential next job or role. Only 12% of satisfied staff say that they are happy with how their manager shows targets for their career path and 11% are happy with the counselling provided by the manager with regards to their future career (2.2% and 3% respectively, for workers who are not satisfied overall). International evidence from the World Management Survey shows that management practices in the Japanese manufacturing sector are stronger than on average across OECD countries, with only managers in the United States, Germany and Sweden having a higher overall score (see Figure 7.5). However, the survey also finds that Japanese managers have scope to improve their talent management practices, as this is the only area where their score is only slightly higher than the OECD average. Zooming in on the different dimensions of talent management shows that Japan scores below the OECD average with regards to making room for talent and retaining talent, and does a poorer job than the top performing country (i.e. the United States) in terms of talent development.

The Japanese Government has been taking steps to support employers in their human resource strategies by promoting regular and systematic provision of career guidance to workers. The government has been actively encouraging and supporting employers to adopt such a system of career guidance, referred to as a “self-career dock system”, which can include both individual counselling but also group counselling in career seminars. Interested employers can receive guidance and support, and trained career counsellors can be sent to the employers to assist with the implementation of a guidance system. Moreover, training and supervision can be provided to internal guidance counsellors working in firms that adopt the system. Finally, training can be made available for workers in firms that introduce the self-career dock system in order to raise awareness around the benefits of career guidance. Until 2018, employers who introduced the self-career dock system could receive a government subsidy.

For workers to be able to progress in their career, they need to understand the skills that they have and identify skill gaps with respect to their career aspirations. A survey among workers in nine countries showed that workers evaluate the difference between the skills that they have and the skills they need to achieve their career goals mostly through company performance assessments (44%), own research (38%) and feedback from colleagues (25%) (Adecco and BCG, 2018[5]). The use of company performance evaluations for identifying skill gaps is much less common among Japanese workers: only 27% of Japanese workers use this tool, compared to around 50% in India, Switzerland, China and France. Japanese workers mostly rely on their own research, with 41% saying that this is how they assess their skill gap. Only 10% of Japanese workers say that they use their colleagues’ feedback as input when assessing their skill gap, which is much lower than in other countries. Moreover, 30% of workers in Japan say that they do not evaluate their skill gap, which is almost twice as high as on average across the nine analysed countries. These data suggest that many Japanese workers are not evaluating their skills and the skills they need to progress in their career, and when they do, they mostly rely on their own assessment.

A first step in the identification of skills gaps is for workers to understand the skills that they have. Moreover, it will help workers to advance in their careers if they can clearly demonstrate to their employer which skills they possess, as this makes it easier for employers to assess their workers and implement performance-based career progression opportunities. Having such as visualisation of their workers’ skills will also help employers more broadly with the assessment of their skill needs (e.g. using the Internal Occupational Skills Development Plan). This is particularly important in a context where workers acquire skills through non-formal and – especially – informal learning. In Japan, a system of recognition of prior learning exists to certify the skills that adults possess, but it applies only to a subset of occupations and can only be used to acquire certain specialised certifications, see Box 7.2 for details.

As a more informal way to visualise workers’ skills, the Job card system was introduced in Japan in 2008. The job card is a form of CV that summarises a person’s professional experience, qualifications and certificates, as well as training and learning records (including evaluations of training outcomes, if available) and work performance evaluations. It is each adult’s responsibility to create and update their job card. The Japanese Government had been actively promoting the use of job cards, by disseminating leaflets and brochures to a wide range of adults (including workers, jobseekers, students and business owners) and by broadcasting videos that explain the use of the job card and show best practices. Moreover, a dedicated website provides information on how to create a job card, possible formats and examples, skill assessment tools, and personalised consultations through email. Dedicated software has been developed to help individuals create and fill out their job card. Job Card centres have been set up throughout the country, with the aim to support the adoption of job cards and to collect good practice examples by industry and job type.

A target of 3 million job card holders by 2020 was set, and by the end of the 2018 financial year almost 2.2 million adults had created a job card. Awareness and use of the job card system by employers remains limited: only 3% of employers reported using the system in 2017, and an additional 23% know what it is but do not use it (Basic Survey of Human Resource Development). Data on the characteristics of job card holders in the period 2005-16 shows that only 17% were in employment, suggesting that the job card is mostly used for people who are looking for a job. Moreover, more than three-quarters of job card holders had been enrolled in public vocational training, for which the creation of a job card is often recommended. These numbers suggest that relatively few workers create a job card at their own initiative and without additional support, which might point to limited awareness of the tool or its perceived low relevance for internal career mobility opportunities.

The government is currently analysing how non-formally or informally acquired skills can be more easily incorporated in the job card framework, which could potentially make the tool more useful for workers. Moreover, the Labour Policy Council and other relevant bodies are tasked to provide assessments of the Job Card programme in order to better align it with the changes in the society and with the government’s policy objectives.

A second step in the identification of skill gaps is for workers to compare their current skills with the ones required for the next step in their career, possibly with the help of the job card or skill certificates. For this, it is crucial that workers have a good understanding of what skills are needed for the different roles in their firm. Therefore, employers need to provide transparency on the content and skill requirements of the different jobs in the organisation. The Employment Skill Evaluation Standards, discussed in Chapter 6, can help employers describe the skill requirements of different jobs. Based on these standards, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, has developed career maps for a range of fields and industries, showing different possible career pathways. Additionally, the recently introduced Occupation Information website (https://shigoto.mhlw.go.jp) provides detailed information of job tasks and skill requirement, see next section. Employers with solid information systems can also leverage the information they have on their workers career history and their skills, training activities and qualification or certifications to better understand typical career pathways within the firm, the skills associated to each role and the training usually required to go from one role to another. If employers do not already have this information, the information from workers’ job cards could be leveraged. Ready-to-use solutions of this type are available on the market for companies to adopt.

One way for workers to identify the different roles in firms and the associated career pathways is through mentorship programmes. In such programmes, workers are paired with colleagues (usually higher up in the hierarchy) to learn from them and get advice and support for their career. An international employer survey showed that the top benefits for participants in mentorship programmes are professional development, a better understanding of organisation culture, and the development of new perspectives (ATD Research, 2017[6]). Mentorship programmes are not only beneficial for the workers receiving mentoring, but also for the mentors. The survey shows that the top benefits for mentors are developing new perspectives, developing leadership skills, and gaining insights into the organisation. The most-cited benefits of mentorship programmes for the firm in general are higher employee engagement and retention, supporting growth of high-potential employees, stimulating the creation of intra-organisational relationships and collaboration, and knowledge management and transfer. While the implementation of mentorship programmes and other forms of high performance work practices (see Chapter 5) is ultimately the choice of employers, governments can support employers by providing guidance and disseminating good practice examples. At the European level, the EUWIN Knowledge Bank brings together resources in workplace innovation, including guides and good practice examples, from across EU countries, see Box 7.3.

Employers are well placed to provide career guidance to workers who want to advance their career internally. However, workers who would like to transition to new opportunities with a different employer will prefer to seek guidance externally. Therefore, independent career guidance providers should be accessible to these workers. As non-standard forms of employment (such as part-time work, multiple jobs and non-regular employment) are on the rise in Japan, workers might switch between firms more frequently and therefore have stronger demand for external guidance services.

According to the Japan Household Survey, 11% of workers wanted to change to another job in 2018. Workers mostly want to change jobs for job quality reasons, i.e. better working hours and less psychological burden (32%) and better wages (19%). For 9% of workers the main reason for wanting to change jobs is related to declining business and anxiety about the future, and for another 8.5% it is linked to the temporary nature of the job. The interest in changing jobs declines with age, and is larger in medium-sized firms (30-500 employees) than in large or small firms. Career guidance services could support those workers wanting to change jobs, by providing high-quality information about labour market opportunities, helping workers better understand their interests, skills and aspirations, and, if needed, guide workers towards relevant training opportunities. These services can not only help workers find jobs that suit their interests and skills, but also guide them towards occupations or sectors that have good labour market prospects.

As discussed above, Japan has introduced a national qualification in the area of career counselling, which has implied that growing numbers of certified guidance counsellors are offering their services. While many of these counsellors end up offering their services within firms, some are providing independent guidance services, either as self-employer or freelance counsellor or as part of the public employment service (Hello Work). These independent guidance counsellors are well placed to help workers who are looking for new opportunities. Moreover, as certification of guidance counsellors needs to be renewed every five years, these counsellors have opportunities to keep their skills and knowledge on labour market needs up to date and are therefore able to provide relevant counselling services.4

To support workers who are unlikely to benefit from career guidance services, including through the self-career dock system, the Japanese Government established several support centres for career development in 2020, and also set up a system to allow for online or in-person career counselling sessions for free. Workers can register online or by phone for these sessions, which are provided by career guidance counsellors selected through a call for tenders. These guidance sessions are mostly targeted at young workers, older workers, and workers in SMEs, but anyone can register.5 In addition, a portal site to search qualified career consultants Cari-con Search – is available for those who wish to find a career consultant on their own. To ensure that these underrepresented groups of workers have access to career guidance opportunities, these distance services need to be promoted among the target audience and adapted to the specific needs of these workers. Moreover, dedicated external career guidance services for older workers and non-regular workers could be set up. Also the Japanese Government should consider, for example, providing financial incentives to SMEs to make use of external qualified career consultants.

The Japanese public employment service, Hello Work, provides career counselling and job matching services to anyone registered within the Hello Work system. Hence, Hello Work’s services are also available to workers looking to change jobs. However, relatively few employed adults are registered with Hello Work: in 2018, only a third of all registered adults were employed. The system is therefore mostly geared towards unemployed adults (see next section for a discussion on career guidance for job seekers). More efforts can be made to promote Hello Work’s services among workers and to make the services more accessible to them (e.g. in terms of operating hours), provided that Hello Work has the resources to deal with more requests from employed adults. Moreover, Hello Work’s counsellors need to be trained on how to provide advice and guidance to workers, who might have different needs and preferences than unemployed jobseekers.

As an alternative to Hello Work, workers can consult with self-employed guidance counsellors. However, these services are free only for the first 60-minute session (or, in some cases depending on the worker’s situation, for the first three sessions). Hence, certain workers might find too expensive to pay further guidance sessions. To reduce the financial barriers to access these guidance services, the Japanese Government should consider introducing financial incentives for workers to consult qualified counsellors. Such financial incentives could be made available to all or restricted to those workers who have the strongest need for guidance and/or the largest financial constraints, like for example non-regular workers and older workers. When the incentive is available to all, it can be made more generous for those who need it most. In Belgium, for example, all workers can request vouchers to partially cover the costs of a consultation with a career guidance professional, while in France all employed and unemployed adults can get free personalised career guidance delivered by authorised providers (see Box 7.4). In light of the fact that older workers could face particular challenges in understanding their career pathways, the governments of Australia and the Netherlands are subsidising specialised career guidance services for these workers (see Box 7.5). In addition to financial barriers, workers in Japan might not be aware of the existence of these private counselling service providers or might have difficulties understanding the services they offer. Therefore, information on qualified providers needs to be readily available, possibly integrated into existing guidance websites (see below). The Cari-con Search portal site to search qualified career consultants is already a step in the right direction.

As discussed above, workers who want to progress in their career can benefit from visualising their skills so that they can easily identify their skills gaps and demonstrate the skills they have to their employer. Being able to visualise one’s skills is even more important for workers who want to change company, as their prospective employers have a very limited understanding of the skills development opportunities the worker benefitted from in his or her previous job. Tools like the Job Card can help workers give an overview of their work experience and training activities, to provide valuable information to prospective employers. However, it might still be difficult for employers to evaluate individuals’ skills based on an overview of their work experience and non-formal or informal learning activities. More formalised skills recognition tools, such as the skills test (as discussed in Box 7.2), are useful in this respect. The Japanese Government should consider expanding these tools, so that they can be exploited to assess and validate a wider range of skills and contribute to a full or partial formal qualification. In particular, implementing skills tests – possibly while also exploring the use of virtual reality – in sectors where the identification of job tasks and competences is challenging but feasible, such as for interpersonal services (e.g. sales, food and hotel industry, etc.) – could prove very fruitful.

Specific attention should also be given to those sectors where competences are very challenging to identify and hence skills tests cannot be easily produced. This is particularly the case of white-collar jobs, such as clerical, administrative or managerial occupations. In 2019, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has initiated a survey and study for the development of vocational ability assessment tools for white-collar occupations, which is still ongoing. In the future, even more efforts should be made to evaluate the gap between the skills sought by companies and the skills actually possessed by job seekers. A promising avenue for research is the exploitation of big data in cooperation with recruitment agencies, or the use of artificial intelligence, such as deep learning. To this end, job cards are also useful, as they contain valuable information about individuals’ work history, qualifications, educational and training backgrounds, as well as other achievements.

In addition to face-to-face career guidance services, workers might also look for information on possible careers and associated training opportunities on the internet. Ideally, online guidance portals are easy to use and bring together information on the labour market, including the content, working conditions and labour market prospects for occupations, and on training. With regards to training, it is important that individuals understand the training needed for a certain job, the quality and outcomes of training, as well as the costs and available government support measures (e.g. subsidies). Moreover, direct links to relevant training providers make it easier for users to take action immediately. Finally, online career guidance portals can allow for personal career and training advice based on the preferences and skills of the user.

In Japan, several publicly managed career guidance portals exist, the main ones being the Hello Work website, the dedicated Job Card website, and the newly launched Occupational Information website (see Chapter 4 for a description of other websites listing adult learning courses). Table 7.1 gives an overview of the main information related to occupations and training available on these websites. The Hello Work website mostly provides information about training (public vocational training only), but does not contain information on occupations. The Job Card website allows users to take a (basic) assessment of their skills and interests, and provides links to other relevant websites (e.g. Hello Work vacancy search page, a repository of career consultants). The Occupational Information website mostly focuses on occupations, and allows users to find occupations that match their skills (see Box 7.6 for details). Hence, while these three websites provide interesting information, they fail in bringing together and linking all relevant materials. No single website exists that directly links information about occupations and training opportunities.

To improve the usefulness and effectiveness of career guidance websites, the Japanese Government should consider bringing together the existing information from the three abovementioned websites, as well as information from other sources and tools, such as the career maps under the Employment Skill Evaluation Standards framework. Moreover, the existing information should be linked better and in an interactive way. For example, when the user consults information about certain occupations, information about relevant training opportunities and associated providers and a link to vacancies for those specific occupations should be provided. It is also of crucial importance that users find information on the outlook of occupations and the quality of training. Box 7.7 provides good practice examples of well-designed and comprehensive career guidance portals in Scotland, New Zealand and Australia.

Career guidance is of crucial importance to help unemployed adults back into work. It helps jobseekers in their job search, by supporting the identification of relevant job opportunities and available training in case of skill gaps. Moreover, these guidance services can reorient unemployed adults who worked in declining sectors or occupations towards fields that are in demand. Effective career counselling can help reduce the risk of long-term unemployment and improve the matching process.

As discussed above, the unemployed can receive job-search support from Hello Work, the Japanese Public Employment Service. Hello Work, which provides services in 544 locations nationwide, offers vocational counselling, job search guidance, referrals to active labour market programmes, including participation in vocational guidance, and placement services. Jobseekers need to register with Hello Work to be able to receive unemployment benefits, but jobseekers who are not eligible for these benefits can also register and receive job search support and have access to training opportunities under Support System For Job Seekers Registration needs to be done in one of the Hello Work offices.

Hello Work offices have separate counters for jobseekers who require guidance on vocational training or general upgrading of skills (Duell et al., 2010[15]). Vocational guidance and career counselling services are mainly targeted towards first-time jobseekers or recent graduates and the long-term unemployed. Career-counselling services include training in interview skills and CV preparation. Career counsellors also assess the skills and qualifications of jobseekers in relation to a particular job vacancy that interests them, and schedule an interview if the jobseekers have the skills required. They can provide letters of recommendation to applicants confirming their ability to perform the job. The main Hello Work offices tend to prioritise placement services for jobseekers, and spend less time on individual counselling, due to the large number of people seeking their assistance (Sano, 2004[16]).

Hello Work has advanced significantly in terms of self-service facilities, so that individual jobseekers have the main responsibility for their own job search. While self-service approaches are widely used in OECD countries, it is generally recognised that they have limitations (Duell et al., 2010[15]). Disadvantaged jobseekers may not have ready access to the internet or may not have the skills to use the services effectively. Personal counselling may identify job-search issues such as the limitation of job-search efforts to particular types of vacancies or weaknesses in the client’s CV or interview presentation. Thus, even where vacancy listings are readily accessible, the PES should also offer personal counselling. Some specialised Hello Works offices or specialised corners within the main Hello Work offices have been set up to for specific target groups that would benefit from more targeted services adapted to their situation and work or job search barriers. This is the case, for example for older workers and mothers.

Main Hello Work offices in prefectures have a special corner for older jobseekers aged 55 and above and special corners for those aged 65 and above (OECD, 2018[17]). At these corners older jobseekers can make appointments with the advantage that they avoid waiting, are followed-up by a caseworker and the caseworker can prepare counselling in advance. Also at these corners, age-adapted computer screens are available for job-search though not all older jobseeker are using the special desk. Overall, older jobseekers are more likely to come to the Hello Work offices than younger jobseekers, as they more often lack digital skills and devices to search for jobs online.

For mothers who are bringing up children and seeking employment or who wish to change jobs, specialised centres and corners are have been put in place (Duell et al., 2010[15]). Compared with the main Hello Work offices, these centres offer more tailored services such as information on childcare (in collaboration with local government), more intensive job-search assistance and career counselling, special seminars and some training (e.g. IT). They make special efforts to acquire vacancies from companies which offer conditions suitable for mothers e.g. in terms of work-life balance.

While personalised face-to-face counselling is important, especially for jobseekers who face particular difficulties in their job search, jobseekers also need access to relevant information and user-friendly tools to support their autonomous job search. As discussed above, several government websites, including the Hello Work website, provide useful information about career options and training opportunities, but the information is scattered. Creating a user-friendly guidance portal that is well integrated with the Hello Work online services can support unemployed adults in their job search.


[5] Adecco and BCG (2018), Future-Proofing the Workforce: Accelerating skills acquisition to match the pace of change.

[6] ATD Research (2017), Mentoring Matters: Developing Talent With Formal Mentoring Programs, Association for Talent Development, http://www.td.org/research (accessed on 3 April 2020).

[12] Department of Education, S. (2020), Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program, https://www.employment.gov.au/skillscheckpointprogram (accessed on 2 April 2020).

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← 1. A regression analysis was carried out to identify the association between specific individual characteristics and the likelihood of liking to learn new things to a high or very high extent.

← 2. The definition of career counselling in the Human Resource Development Survey refers to the provision of advice and guidance to workers on the topics of job selection, vocational life design, and the development and improvement of vocational skills. Advice and guidance under this definition does not necessarily have to be delivered by dedicated counsellors.

← 3. Other groups that can take the exam for obtaining the career counsellor qualification are those who have extensive work experience as a career counsellor. Adults who have obtained career consultant qualifications through Skills Tests (as well as adults deemed to have the skills needed to pass this Skills Test, like for example adults who completed a training course that qualified them to take the “Career Consultant Competency Assessment Examination” that was being conducted until March 2016) are exempted from the exam.

← 4. For their certification to be renewed, guidance counsellors need to participate in at least 30 hours of training to develop skills in counselling techniques, instructional methods for preparing resumes, techniques for helping people understand their job, techniques for helping people develop themselves, and/or techniques for helping people adjust to their new job. Additionally, they need to participate in at least eight hours of training to improve their knowledge in one or more of the following areas: vocational development, human resource management, labour markets, labour-related laws and regulations, social security system, education system, and/or mental health. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare determines which training programmes are eligible.

← 5. The only requirement to register for these distance guidance counselling services is to hold a Job Card.

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