The Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications conducts a Labour Force Survey every month targeting people 15 years old and over in approximately 40,000 households. The unemployment rate, the size of the labor force, the number of employed in each industry and so on are estimated on the basis of the results from this survey. In January 2002, the ministry revised the contents of the survey. With the unemployment rate frequently breaking previous records, the ministry is attempting to grasp unemployment trends more precisely and promptly in order to better incorporate the results in future employment measures.The biggest revision is a further categorization of the reasons for being unemployed. Previously, the breakdown contained four categories: "quit the job voluntarily (due to personal or family considerations)," "quit the job involuntarily," "no suitable vacancies since graduation," and "other reasons." Of these categories, "quit the job involuntarily" is now subdivided into "quit the job at employer's convenience" and "quit the job because of mandatory retirement or expiration of job contract." These new categories make it easier to discern between those who are out of work because of the mandatory retirement age on the one hand and those who lost their jobs before reaching the retirement age due to "restructuring" measures employment adjustment through dismissals, or calls for voluntary retirement and thus are in a more serious situation. In addition, someone who had newly begun to look for work (excluding new graduates) but had not yet succeeded was classified under "others" in the previous survey, but will now be included in a new category, "(tried to get a job) because a need for income arose." Thus the new survey will be able to estimate the number of people who newly are seeking jobs to compensate for a drop in their household incomes.
Apart from the regular survey conducted on a monthly basis, the Special Labour Force Survey has been conducted every February and August in order to examine the number of unemployed in terms of duration, the number of "hidden" unemployed, that is those who wish to work but are not actively seeking jobs, and other items. But now, some items surveyed in the Special Labour Force Survey will be incorporated into the monthly Labour Force Survey, the results being released on a quarterly basis in February, May, August and November.Finally, the industries are now divided into smaller groups; for example, "transportation and telecommunications" has been divided into two separate categories, and "services," which has been absorbing an increasing number of workers, is now broken down into "information services," "medical and welfare," "education" and so on, so the new survey is able to spot clearly expanding sectors.
The latest results of a report on the state of employment of non-Japanese conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was released last December. As of June 1, 2001, 74.1 percent of foreign workers were employed in the manufacturing sector, with one-third being hired by medium-sized firms with 100 to 299 employees. In addition, some 40 percent of these workers were employed under "indirect job contracts," whereby the workers did not have contracts with their immediate employers at the workplace. This type of contract includes dispatched workers and contracted workers.This report has been conducted annually since 1993 and targets all business establishments with 50 or more employees and selected establishments with less than 50 workers. The most recent survey received answers from 20,746 establishments. It shows that the number of foreign workers totaled 221,807, and that the figure, as well as the number of establishments with such workers, has increased since 1993. (The year-on-year growth rate was 4.8 percent for the number of such establishments, and 7.1 percent for foreign workers.) Where the flow of foreign workers was concerned, 74,612 foreigners were newly hired while 59,862 left their place of employment, increases of 17.8 percent and 21.5 percent, respectively, compared to the figures recorded in the previous year.
In terms of the type of contract, foreign workers who were employed directly by the company they worked for totalled 130,440, with 91,367 having an indirect contract, accounting for 41.2 percent of the whole. By industry, the largest proportion, 74.1 percent, of foreign workers were employed in the manufacturing sector, followed by the service industry which employed 13.7 percent of the foreign workers. Among foreign workers having indirect job contracts, more than 90 percent were engaged in the manufacturing sector.A further breakdown of direct contract workers from abroad reveals that the majority, 60 percent, were male, with the highest proportion being assembly line workers (61.5%), followed by "professional, technically skilled, or holding a managerial post" (18.4 percent) and "sales clerk and cooking, and waiter/waitress" (7.7%). By region, the majority were from Central and South America (44.9%); 87.5 percent of these are of Japanese descent. This was followed by East Asia (China and South Korea, 30.5%), Southeast Asia (11.8%), North America (5.3%) and Europe (3.7%). In terms of visa status, 57.8 percent were married to children of a Japanese citizen or a permanent resident, or were themselves long-term residents, ensuring unrestricted work permission. This was followed by those with a "visa allowing them to work in a specific field" such as educator or technician (22.4%); "technical intern training" (10.3%); "foreign student or attending school" (8.2%), and "working holiday programs" (0.3%). The proportion of regular employees to the total number of foreign workers was 32.2 percent, the proportion being high in both the "professional, technically skilled and managerial" and "sales and clerical" job categories.
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