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Friday, May 13, 2011
Employing disaster survivors
More than two months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, construction of temporary housing for disaster victims and the restoration of lifelines such as electricity, gas, city water and sewerage have become urgent tasks. Close attention also must be paid to employment of disaster survivors.
Before March 11, more than 840,000 people were working in the coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. Jobs included processing of fishery products, tourism, construction and electronic appliances and machinery manufacturing. It is reasonable to assume that many people, including farmers and fishermen, were put out out of work although an accurate number is hard to ascertain.
In areas around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, a town office moved to another prefecture and a large number of people have had to leave their homes. Several tens of thousands of people in the areas may have been forced to close down their businesses or have lost their jobs at least temporarily.
The government has announced policies to give priority to local enterprises in the impacted areas for public works projects such as construction of temporary housing and removal of debris as well as to the hiring of disaster survivors to care for children at temporary shelters and to visit elderly people in these areas.
The government also has decided to subsidize companies that employ disaster victims. Firms in the impacted areas that had to withdraw decisions to hire new graduates have been asked to go ahead and hire them then treat them as absent from work. These firms will be eligible for subsidies to be given to the newly hired.
It is clear that government measures will not create enough employment. The government should have companies across the country devise ways to increase employment in the disaster-hit areas. Tax and other incentives should be used.
The government also should strengthen vocational training in those areas, and public employment security offices should offer detailed information so that middle-aged and elderly people from the affected areas can find suitable jobs.