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Thursday, June 23, 2011


Employment in Tohoku

The nation's employment situation has worsened since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged its supply chains, thus affecting economic activities nationwide. The unemployment rate for April was 4.7 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than in March.

Since the unemployment data could not be collected in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures devastated by the March 11 disasters, the real status may be worse than the figure suggests. Special attention should be paid to conditions in the affected Tohoku coastal area where fisheries and other local industries were severely damaged.

For example, some 21,000 people worked in fisheries in the three prefectures in 2008 and most of the fishing ports there were destroyed by the March 11 disasters.

Following the disasters, more than 114,000 people in the three prefectures began procedures to receive unemployment insurance money by late May, according to the labor and welfare ministry.

By one estimate some 140,000 to 200,000 people in the region lost their jobs because of the disasters.

Debris in the devastated areas are being removed gradually. But the situation is far from ideal for the start of full-fledged work to rebuild the region.

It is crucially important to locally create jobs. Otherwise people will try to find employment outside their native areas and the Tohoku coastal region will suffer from shortages of workers. This will hamper reconstruction, which will take many years.

Many local companies in the Tohoku region gave up employing young people fresh from school in the spring of 2011 and it is doubtful that the situation will be much different next year.

In this situation, graduating students in the affected region are likely to look for jobs in Tokyo and other places. The government must quickly take measures to help local enterprises in the Tohoku region so that people can find employment close to their homes.

The measures should include tax and finance privileges for companies in the devastated areas, assistance to agriculture, fisheries and tourism, and deregulation, if necessary, for land use.

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