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New Publications Aim to Strengthen Children's Work Ethic (February 1, 2006)

Twenty-first Century Children's Encyclopedia of Work (Shogakukan Inc.)
Major publishing companies have released a succession of titles aimed at teaching children about the meaning and value of employment. These books have appeared amid growing concern about the number of NEETs, or young people "not in education, employment, or training." Many parents are keen to cultivate a strong work ethic in their children in the face of this growing social problem.

Job Guidance for Teenagers
The title that heralded this new genre was Job Guidance for Thirteen-Year-Olds and All Triers (Jusan-sai no “Hello Work”*), which went on sale across the country in December 2003. In this book, the author, Murakami Ryu, focuses his attention on the tendency for children to lack the motivation to work and asks how children should choose an occupation. Readers are asked to think of work in terms of things that are dearest to them and are introduced to 514 types of jobs related to flowers, animals, fashion, and other categories. The range of jobs covered is astounding.

Murakami helps readers to understand that, for example, going to an elite college and getting a job at a top-notch company is not necessarily the path best suited to their own happiness. He advises young people that they can save themselves time and effort by figuring out early on what type of job they would like to do.

Job Guidance for Thirteen-Year-Olds and All Triers was released to mark the tenth anniversary of the founding of Gentosha Inc., the book's publisher. The 30,000 copies in the first print run sold out in just one week. In the four months that followed, an additional 50,000 copies were printed every week, and by May 2004, less than six months after its appearance, it had become a million-seller.

The publisher originally assumed high school and college students would be the book's main readers, since they are the group most concerned about the job market. But to its surprise, parents in their late thirties and forties, whose children are around junior high school age, were the most avid purchasers of the title. They were followed by young people in their late twenties and early thirties who are considering a career change, and senior citizens, many of who said they were buying the volume for a grandchild.

A New Genre of Children's Books
Spurred by the overwhelming success of Job Guidance for Thirteen-Year-Olds and All Triers, major publishers decided to come out with their own books for children addressing the meaning of work. Shogakukan Inc., for example, published Twenty-first Century Children's Encyclopedia of Work (21-seiki Kodomo Hyakka Shigotokan), which is targeted at third and fourth graders. A total of 50,000 copies were printed initially. The encyclopedia is designed to give children a clear image of about 200 jobs, from professional athlete to video-game creator, through descriptions that contain a large number of photographs and illustrations.

In The Ultimate Guide to Jobs That Cultivate Your Dreams (Ketteiban Yume o Sodateru Minna no Shigoto 101), published by Kodansha Ltd., paramedics and others describe the fulfillment they get from their jobs. A total of 25,000 copies were issued in the first edition. A subsidiary of Recruit Co., meanwhile, released a picture book for preschool children titled Oink! Good Job! (Good Jobubu). The story revolves around the adventures of a young pig that tries its hand at various jobs.

The surging ranks of NEETs and the declining work ethic of young people are two major factors behind the popularity of these books. According to statistics released by the Cabinet Office in March 2005, an estimated 847,000 young men and women were neither working, seeking employment, nor receiving job training in 2002. The government has taken steps to deal with the problem, organizing training camps to foster young people's independence and other programs, and high schools and colleges now hold seminars aimed at enhancing children's motivation to work. In addition, counseling services have been launched by nonprofit organizations, and a variety of parenting groups and information exchanges have been launched.

The hope is that children who learn about the satisfaction that can be gained from a fulfilling job early in life will be inspired to pursue a career that suits their own talents and ambitions.

* Hello Work: job-placement offices

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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