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Only 30% of businesses have reopened in Fukushima nuclear disaster-hit areas: survey

FUKUSHIMA -- Only some 30 percent of businesses have resumed operations in areas within a 30-kilometer radius of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant or in districts that were previously marked as evacuation zones, a Fukushima Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry survey has found.

As for the stagnation in the region's economic renaissance, a representative from the federation said, "There are few residents, and along with anxiety over whether or not business will be able to turn a profit, it is also hard to secure young workers."

The investigation covered 14 local societies of commerce and industry, recording the business climate as of Feb. 20, 2018. The percentage was particularly low in the four municipalities of Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and Kawamata, for which evacuation orders was partially lifted between March and April 2017.

In the town of Namie, of the 597 members of the local society of commerce, 262 operators, or 44 percent, restarted their companies or shops -- but only 34, or roughly 6 percent of the total, did so in Namie itself. The remaining 228 businesses all reopened in the locations to which their owners evacuated after the disaster.

Meanwhile, in Tomioka, 277 businesses of the 478 society members reopened, but only 60, or 13 percent, did so in the town. The numbers were slightly higher for Iitate, where 130 of the 167 operators restarted their businesses -- 51 of whom did so in the same area, for 31 percent.

Of 2,804 total members of the prefectural-level federation as a whole, 1,840 companies and shops reopened (66 percent), with 31 percent or 860 businesses returning to open shop in the affected areas. By industry, construction saw the biggest revival rate at 37 percent, followed by manufacturing at 35 percent, stone work and miscellaneous businesses at 32 percent and the service industry at 28 percent, no doubt boosted by reconstruction efforts.

The evacuation locations for the residents of Namie are divided into inland areas like Fukushima city and coastal areas, and it is reportedly hard for owners to restart businesses while commuting from these locations. At the end of February 2018, the population of Namie was 17,954 people, but only 516 people actually lived in the town along with reconstruction workers.

The operator of a supermarket before the disaster commented, "If people don't return, then it's difficult to secure enough employees and impossible to run a business."

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