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Help disaster victims find the jobs they want

As one month has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, moves to provide employment assistance to victims of the disaster are spreading nationwide.

Companies in the railway, video game, food, medicine and financial service sectors, among others, have come out with job offers for victims of the March 11 catastrophe. About 170 corporations have posted job offers with an online employment information service company. The Tokushima, Tottori and Kyoto prefectural governments are among those that have expressed readiness to temporarily employ people from disaster-stricken areas.

Although many of these job opportunities are only temporary, they are welcome and will encourage people affected by the terrible earthquake and tsunami.

Unfortunately, the number of job offers is still too few.

An estimated 800,000 people worked in the coastal regions of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures that were pummeled by the tsunami. It is not known how many people lost jobs because of the disaster, but more than 26,000 people had sought consultations about employment at local government offices in the three prefectures as of early April.

The government has just worked out an emergency package of measures to help disaster victims find jobs. The package centers on job creation in rebuilding projects, increased government subsidies for companies that keep workers on, and a new subsidy system for companies that hire disaster victims.

Priority should naturally be given to local companies in disaster-hit areas when awarding contracts for construction of temporary housing and debris removal. Special subsidies introduced after major disasters in the past to some extent effectively prevented companies from dismissing employees and withdrawing job offers extended to new graduates.

The tricky part will be creating a system that can match the needs of disaster victims with the available job openings. The government-envisioned employment assistance program cannot be effective as long as disaster victims are unable to find companies and jobs that meet their preferences.

The employment assistance package calls for the launch of “employment encouragement councils” centering on Hellowork job placement offices in every prefecture to provide job offer information to disaster victims.

However, this alone will not be enough.

The government also should obtain employment information from national federations of agricultural and fisheries cooperatives, and urge Silver Human Resources Centers―which provide employment opportunities to retirees―to help find jobs for elderly disaster victims.

In addition, there should be venues where disaster victims can get advice on housing, job training and children’s education. We also think the government should improve the system under which Hellowork officials visit evacuation shelters and related places to speak at length to victims about their employment wants.

The emergency package also eases employment-related regulations for disaster victims. This has made it easier for temporary employment placement companies to set up consultation areas at disaster shelters. Perhaps it would be a good idea if temp agencies and public-sector employment placement officials could both give consultations at the shelters.

We urge the government to make every possible effort to make it simpler for disaster victims to find jobs.

It will be some time before life returns to normal for victims of this disaster. Some will have to make tough choices about leaving familiar areas and taking up jobs they are unaccustomed to.

To minimize the number of disaster victims left with no option but to take up employment that does not meet their wishes, the government should provide them with broad, well thought-out employment assistance.

(The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 17)