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News Navigator: What's causing the 3/11 disaster reconstruction labor shortage?

The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about the shortage of labor for rebuilding the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster regions.

    Question: What is the job-to-applicant ratio in the affected region?

    Answer: The figures in the three prefectures most affected by the disaster are actually on par with -- or only slightly above -- the national average in December last year, which was 1.27 jobs for every applicant. In comparison, the figure was 1.20 in Iwate Prefecture; 1.34 in Miyagi Prefecture; and 1.50 in Fukushima Prefecture.

    Just prior to the disaster, in February 2011, the average ratio in the affected region was 0.50-0.52 jobs for every applicant, below the nationwide average of 0.62. Following the March 11 tragedy, however, the figure suddenly climbed upward -- and has continued to hover at a high level for the past few years.

    Q: What is the reason for this trend?

    A: One factor is the strong demand for employees in civil engineering and construction. Because damage from the tsunami was so serious and widespread, public works projects continued to be launched in numerous locations, particularly along the coastline. This surge of "special reconstruction-related procurement" has resulted in an insufficient pool of labor that's especially acute along the coast, as many people moved inland following the disaster.

    Q. But isn't it a positive development for the region to have so many jobs on offer?

    A: That is not necessarily the case. While there is a shortage of job vacancies in the popular field of office work, core coastal industries such as marine product processing are chronically understaffed, as well as other employment mismatches.

    The ratio of marine product processing jobs to applicants last December was 6.88 to 1 within the jurisdiction of the Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, branch of the Hello Work job agency. Numerous companies are facing a situation, therefore, whereby they have gone to the effort of restarting their plants -- but are unable to operate to capacity due to a lack of employees.

    Q: That is an astounding ratio, isn't it?

    A: Yes. In addition to low wages, jobs in marine product processing involve working with cold water, and are quite demanding -- and have therefore always had trouble attracting employees.

    Special reconstruction-related procurement is expected to wind down gradually after the government's intensive reconstruction period finishes after the end of this fiscal year in March 2016. To take on employment-related needs, then, it will be necessary to undertake business performance improvement efforts for better treatment of workers. (Answers by Hiroshi Miyajima, Business News Department)

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