For the unemployed in areas heavily damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake, a government program to create long-term employment opportunities shines out like a beacon of hope amid a severe job market.
The program, which was first implemented earlier this month, received an additional 151 billion yen in funding from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry last November. Under the program, local governments outsource projects to businesses and nonprofit organizations, which hire employees for a period of one year or longer with the intent of training them to be regular employees. The central government subsidizes labor and other costs.
So far, about 450 people in Iwate Prefecture and about 1,000 people in Miyagi Prefecture are expected to be employed under the program this fiscal year. In Iwate, businesses and NPOs have already signed contracts with the prefectural and municipal governments for 49 projects.
Employment offers are beginning to pop up in Fukushima Prefecture as well, with about 1,500 people expected to find jobs, bringing the total to 2,950 new jobs across the three prefectures.
According to the ministry, 58,316 people received unemployment allowances in the three prefectures in February, nearly twice the number in the same month last year. The unemployment situation is especially severe in the hardest-hit coastal areas.
The projects target various jobs, such as training craftsmen to create traditional local crafts, such as Nambu-tekki ironware, and promoting the sale of local specialties.
“It’s necessary to find long-term, stable jobs for people to aid reconstruction. We wish to help as many people as possible to find jobs,” a ministry official said.
Those who have started jobs found through the program are hopeful.
At a salmon hatchery in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, Kazunori Minato, 29, and Akihiro Fukushi, 19, listened attentively to their boss and hatchery manager, Akihiko Hashiba, 55.
“Make sure you don’t cause stress to the salmon when you feed them,” Hashiba said.
Minato and Fukushi were hired on a yearlong contract as temporary workers by a local fisheries cooperative association on April 1. Their job is to catch salmon migrating upstream to lay eggs, raise the offspring and stock them. The Yamada municipal government decided to utilize the project with the aim of fostering a young workforce that will take over the fisheries cooperative.
“I want to stand on my own feet as soon as possible,” said Fukushi, who graduated from high school last year.
Minato used to be a gardener. However, when the tsunami swept his house away, it took most of his job opportunities along with it. “I have a family to take care of. I’m relieved this job gives me a chance at becoming a regular staff member if I work hard,” he said.
Kaori Komatsu, 23, has found employment as a temporary worker at the Kara-kuwa Peninsula Visitor Center in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
She grew up in the town, and graduated from a university in Yamagata in March last year. Although she majored in art history, a majority of the jobs being offered were in the building, nursing and care giving industries.
However, Komatsu said she wants to do her best in cheering up her hometown. “Thanks to the long-term employment project, I can focus on the task of promoting the charm of Kesennuma,” she said.
(Apr. 26, 2012)
TOKYO (Nikkei)–Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture will begin rebuilding the city center in May under a government program designed to help towns damaged in last year’s quake and tsunami rebuild by setting up special companies, The Nikkei learned Tuesday.
A shopping arcade near Ishinomaki Station stands deserted due to damage from last year’s tsunami.
Ishinomaki will be the first of Tohoku’s disaster-ravaged municipalities to set up such a company under the program.
Under the Special Zone for Reconstruction law, city officials in charge of reconstruction, business owners, and disaster victims can jointly set up a reconstruction entity to carry out projects on behalf of the central and prefectural governments to provide business and employment opportunities to local companies and residents. Investments in the companies will get preferential tax treatment.
Ishinomaki will take part in the program, aiming to create a city center that is easy for elderly residents to live in, with retail shops and housing for disaster victims built around a city hospital that is slated to relocate near JR Ishinomaki Station in fiscal 2015.
By taking advantage of the scheme’s tax benefits, Ishinomaki aims to encourage use of vacant shops and foster new businesses, as it tries to speed up the rebuilding of the shopping arcade that was damaged by the tsunami in March of last year.
The city has decided to move the public hospital, which was heavily damaged by the tsunami, closer to the railway station, where damage was less severe. It plans to invite health care businesses, pharmacies, restaurants and retailers to the area in hopes of creating a town that offers vital services within walking distance for elderly residents.
(The Nikkei, April 24 evening edition)
TOKYO (Nikkei)–Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) said Monday that it will fully compensate for real state in all areas contaminated with radiation if residents are unable to return after five years.
The electric utility, known as Tepco, announced its plan at a nuclear compensation council meeting of government and Tepco officials.
The government in the process of reclassifying evacuation zones in Fukushima Prefecture into three categories based on the levels of contamination. Compensation guidelines it compiled in March say Tepco should pay the full pre-accident value for real estate in the most heavily contaminated area, which is expected to remain uninhabitable for at least five years. But it has not set a policy for the remaining two areas.
Given the five-year threshold used for the heavily contaminated zone, Tepco has decided to apply the same rule for the other areas, promising to wholly compensate those who are not able to return to their homes in five years from now.
Tepco also said its total compensation payments had reached 762.1 billion yen as of Thursday. Payments for those who have been evacuated voluntarily totaled 202.8 billion yen, with 460,000 households receiving compensation.
(The Nikkei, April 24 morning edition)
A decade from now, airborne radiation levels in some parts of Fukushima Prefecture are still expected to be dangerous at above 50 millisieverts a year, a government report says.
The report, which contains projections through March 2032, was presented by trade minister Yukio Edano Sunday to leaders of Futaba, one of the towns that host the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The report includes radiation forecasts for 2012 to 2014, and for 2017, 2022 and 2032, based on the results of monitoring in November last year. It was compiled to help municipalities draw up recovery and repopulation programs for the nuclear disaster.
The forecasts do not take into account experimental decontamination efforts.
Earlier this month, the government designated areas where annual radiation dosage exceeds 50 millisieverts as those likely to remain off-limits to evacuees in the near term.
The report said that annual radiation levels in March 2022 will probably exceed 50 millisieverts in some of the areas, including Futaba and Okuma, the other town that hosts the radiation-leaking plant.
In another meeting between the central and local governments, Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano presented a draft policy for reviving Fukushima that is based on a special reconstruction law that took force in March.
The draft said the central government will provide fiscal support to improve living conditions and revive the regional economy and communities.
The government plans to give Cabinet approval to the policy as early as May.
FUKUSHIMA — The government on April 22 released six hot spot charts to show projected annual dose rates of radioactive materials spewing from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant from the end of March this year through 2032.
The charts, based on airborne monitoring of radioactive contamination in November last year, compare annual dose rates in March this year with projections for 2013, 2014, 2017, 2022 and 2032.
Tatsuo Hirano, state minister in charge of post-March 11 reconstruction and disaster prevention, says, “They are prognostic charts based on theoretical values but decontamination factors were not taken into account.” It is the first time that the government has made public such forecasts.
The government produced the charts which focus on areas with high levels of radiation contamination extending in the northwestern direction in Fukushima Prefecture. Government officials say the charts will help local governments affected by the nuclear disaster to draw up a plan to assist evacuees in returning home.
The projections reveal that borders along the towns of Okuma and Futaba, where the Fukushima plant is located, will remain as zones with an annual radiation dose of more than 50 millisieverts, which are basically difficult for residents to return to live even after 20 years. The town of Namie and the village of Katsurao will continue to have restricted districts due to annual radiation doses of over 20 millisieverts and below 50 millisieverts.
The central government presented the charts during a meeting in Fukushima with leaders of the prefecture’s eight towns and villages around the nuclear plant.
April 23, 2012(Mainichi Japan)