Record low employment rate among youth threatens Japan's future -- Akahata editorial, May 17

This year's high-school graduates faced the worst ever employment rate of 86.3 percent. According to a survey by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, about 35,000 high school graduates failed to get jobs, 6,000 more than last year's.

Difficulty in finding jobs and an increase in the number of the unemployed are so serious that they will affect Japan's future.

For university graduates, 92.0 percent were successful in getting jobs this spring. The number of the unemployed among both university and high-school graduates is estimated at over 200,000.

Just at the entrance to social life, many youth tried but failed to find work, having to remain jobless or semi-jobless.

Corporate strategy

An immediate cause of the worsened employment rate is a drastic drop in the number of job offers. After the 'bubble economy' burst, the rate for high-school graduates sharply declined to one sixth compared with the previous peak.

There are two major reasons; one is the recession, and the other, the strategy of major corporations rushing to implement thoroughgoing corporate restructuring in order to secure immediate profits. The measures they take, such as the closing of workshops and compelling subcontractors to accept tougher contract conditions, led to destroying local economies and reducing job offers.

Also, in pursuit of drastic cost reductions, major businesses are transferring their major factories abroad and replacing regular employees with part-timers and other workers with unstable contracts. Even if Japan succeeds in overcoming the present economic recession, it will not directly be linked to creating more job opportunities, and even if there is an increase, most will be jobs for contingency.

Serious joblessness with 1.25 million youth being out of jobs is distorting Japan's society, and robbing the youth of their dreams, hopes, and zeal to study. It is also increasing dissatisfaction with society, which may add fuel to social uneasiness.

In Japan, the carrying on of production procedures and technologies to the next generation is endangered. This will undermine the very basis of Japan's industry and corporations.

Educational circles are worried that the current corporate restructuring will only ruin the companies themselves and all of Japan sooner or later. They are also warning, "What will happen to such a country where young people are not given an opportunity to grow?" and "The present situation is a national crisis." The government and business circles should respond sincerely to these warnings.

Some local governments have employed those graduates who failed to get regular jobs as temporary staff. For a fundamental solution of the problem, the central government needs to take drastic measures, as European nations have done.

France has enacted a law for creating new jobs in public services for 350,000 young people. Germany has made a special program to promote employment of young people, which has helped 270,000 people get jobs in two years.

Austria has maintained a low unemployment rate for young people by promoting vocational training under a special law.

In Britain the government helps young people find jobs. For those who fail to get employed, it provides jobs with subsidies for environmental protection projects and others.

Young people need jobs that they can be proud of

The worst employment situation of Japan in decades demands that the government end supporting major companies' restructuring which is aimed at increasing their competitiveness and profits. The government should take special steps to increase jobs for young people and help them get employed.

Major companies have refrained from recruiting new graduates for a long period of time, but they must stop doing so since providing jobs to the people is their responsibility to the society.

Several millions of jobs can be created if illegal unpaid overtime work is ended, long hours of overtime work are reduced, workers take all paid vacations available to them, and the necessary number of workers are ensured in public service sectors to help improve the people's living conditions.

Japan's society doesn't have a labor surplus but needs a younger labor force. The government is responsible for providing young people who will bear the future of Japan with jobs that they can be proud of. (end)