Japan is currently undergoing its worst financial crisis since the Second World War. Unemployment is rising dramatically and officials all over the country are coming up with retraining schemes -- with more or less success.
Japan's exports have plunged -- the car industry is suffering
Statistics can be very deceptive. In January, Japan’s official unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent. 0.2 percent less than in December. Yet, Japan’s exports have fallen by 13 percent in the same period and this is crippling for the export-dependent economy.
People are losing their jobs -- over 150,000 in the past six months. But because they are mainly people with temporary contracts -- one third of the workforce -- they are not included in the official unemployment figures.
This man recently moved back to his home city in Osaka Prefecture to apply for one of five vacancies only: “I worked for Toyota before but I only had a temporary contract and it ran out at the end of last year. I decided to apply here because my parents live in this city.”
2,000 applications for 5 positions
The authorities in Suita were surprised by the storm of applicants -- over 2,000 for five positions. But what was especially attractive was that they were permanent and there were no preconditions.
Some 35 percent of the applicants were in their 30s whilst 8 percent were over 50. Five lucky few will be informed in April after the written tests have taken place.
All over Japan, officials are trying to come up with ideas to weather the crisis. Hideki Ichinoseki works for the Agricultural Ministry: “On 24.12 last year, we set up this group in the ministry. It’s an emergency measure to awaken the interest of jobseekers for agriculture and forestry as well as for fisheries. We have also set up similar groups at prefectural level across the country.”
He explains that there was a great deal of interest from people wanting to retrain: “10,000 people asked about the vacancies in the period up to 18. Feb. 4,000 of them were interested in agriculture.”
Difficult to get used to physical labour
But out of these 4,000 only 183 actually accepted a job. They are now being trained up. But there are still 1,800 vacancies left -- 70 percent of them are for permanent positions.
Hideki Ichinoseki, however, says it is not easy for people who are used to sitting at their desks or working in factories to get used to working outdoors: “There are jobs but often the jobseekers’ expectations do not correspond to the vacancies. People discover very fast how hard the physical work is and that they won’t manage. This is also true of other areas. Not only agriculture.”
The care sector for example. Japan is an ageing society. The birth rate is low and immigration is strictly regulated. Many elderly people live in care homes where there is a lack of staff.
Although there are permanent positions for work in the care sector all over Japan, there is relatively limited interest. One reason is that jobseekers are often no longer used to dealing with people after years, or even decades, working at a computer or on an assembly line.