In December 1998, the Ministry of Labour introduced a system to subsidize the education and training of working people in order to actively develop their skills and to encourage employment stability and re-employment. Under this system those covered by employment insurance - (employees on payrolls) or the ex-insured person (the separated worker) - who take and finish an education and training program designated by the Ministry of Labour are reimbursed by the ministry's PESO for up to 80 percent of the expenses paid to education and training facilities.
The specific procedures for using the scheme are as follows. First, to qualify one of two conditions must be met and a training program designated by the ministry must be completed. Applicants must either (1) have been covered by employment insurance for more than five years, or (2) be a separated worker who has been insured for more than five years and has started an appropriate training program within a year from the day he or she left work.
Many training courses are designated under the scheme to help working people update their vocational skills. They include courses for information-processing engineers, accountants, social insurance and labor consultants, and for a range of white-collar and professional careers. Those who have undergone training are reimbursed up to 80 percent of fees charged by a training facility, to a maximum of ¥200,000. Japan provides a number of support schemes for companies that implement education and training programs, but there are few that provide support directly to the individual. One exception is a scheme for granting subsidies to middle-aged and older people for such training. The scheme was limited to those aged 40 or over and required a certificate from previous employers. It was thus cumbersome for individuals to use. The new scheme is considerably better than the old subsidy program.
With the economy currently in recession, local governments (including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Kanagawa Prefectural Government and the Osaka Prefectural Government) are being financially pressed due to the reduction in their tax revenues. To cope with the situation, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to freeze wages for one year retrospectively from April 1998.
Labor unions consented to the decision and called off a two-hour strike scheduled on the morning of December 17, 1998. Accordingly, an earlier recommendation by the Metropolitan Government Personnel Commission in October 1998 to grant an average 0.79 percent (or ¥3,488) pay raise to employees will not be implemented. Already, the Kanagawa, Okayama and Saitama prefectural governments have decided to freeze pay for their employees for three to nine months. The Aichi Prefectural Government has proposed a one-year wage freeze and negotiations are now occurring between labor and management.
The 0.79 percent pay raise proposed by the Metropolitan Government Personnel Commission is the lowest ever made, the previous low being 0.92 percent in 1994. Tokyo expects a deficit of ¥440 billion in 1998 and an even larger deficit in 1999. Moreover the government needed to take steps to implement the recommendation of the National Personnel Authority, which was not covered by the initial budget for 1998. By freezing wages for its remaining employees after 4,000 employees retire at the end of the current fiscal year, the government can save about ¥14.5 billion.
The Tokyo government is simultaneously pushing ahead with a plan to abolish 8,000 jobs between 1996 and 2000, and it will raise the number of jobs to be slashed to 10,000. Many jobs in the Bureau of Social Welfare will be transferred during the next year to the newly established Tokyo Metropolitan Social Welfare Project Foundation. Fewer new teachers will be hired at public schools, reflecting a decrease in the number of students.
On April 1, 1998, there were about 3.249 million local public employees, a drop of 0.5 percent (17,500 employees over the year before), according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The decrease is the largest ever, far exceeding the drop of 7,363 recorded in 1997. Presently, the number of local public employees is 30,000 above the 1988 figure, when the number was the lowest since 1982. The ministry has indicated there is a need for further job cuts. The decline in the number of public employees in local government is attributed to on-going personnel cuts in local governments, and in particular reflects a decrease of 13,400 schoolteachers due to the decreasing number of students in the population. In addition, 5,700 clerical jobs have been cut as a result of administrative reform and related measures. Welfare, fire fighting and policing were trimmed of around 1,000 positions each.
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