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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Abe-led panel stresses need for 'second chances'


Staff writer

The government needs to create a social system that gives a second chance to people who drop out of the job market and to entrepreneurs whose businesses have failed, a government panel said in an interim report released Tuesday.

The report, published by the panel led by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe to "promote second chances," is aimed at addressing concerns among voters that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's structural reforms may widen the gap between haves and have-nots.

"We are aiming for a society where those who make efforts are rewarded, and where winners and losers do not remain as they are," Abe told the panel.

But the report speaks mostly in generalities and makes no mention of the specific legislation or budgetary allocations needed to create such a system.

By heading the council, Abe, who is a likely candidate to succeed Koizumi as Liberal Democratic Party president and prime minister, appears to be attempting to differentiate himself from Koizumi, while maintaining the momentum of reform.

The report urges the creation of a system that gives people another chance and says the government must not implement policies that widen the gap between winners and losers.

Abe's call for more opportunity is likely to be a main focus of his campaign for the top LDP spot in September.

In an effort to drum up support for Abe, some LDP politicians plan to set up a group later this week to offer substantive proposals to the panel.

The interim report calls on the government to help young people who had difficulty finding full-time jobs during the slump of the past decade, to facilitate re-entry into the job market by women who took time off to raise children, and to assist retired workers who want to work resume their careers.

Specifically, the government would urge corporate managers to hire not only new graduates but also people from various backgrounds. It would also call on companies to convert part-timer workers to full-time employees, if they so wish.

The government would provide more information, counseling services and seminars to help them hunt for jobs, the report says.

For entrepreneurs whose business has failed, the government aims to provide lending through governmental financial institutions under certain conditions, probably less strict than those set by private banks.

The interim report says the government should create a system to provide financial assistance to children from low-income families to help pay for their education.

The panel will issue a final report in several months.



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The Japan Times

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