Vol.40-No.4 April 1, 2001
According to the findings of the Labour Force Survey taken by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, unemployment in 2000 averaged 4.7 percent. This is on par with the figure for 1999 and represents the worst unemployment rate since the survey was first taken in 1953. The rate has now exceeded that of the U.S. for two successive years.
The monthly unemployment rate increased to 4.9 percent in February and March, and then remained somewhere between 4.6 and 4.8 percent for the rest of the year. The annual rate for males stood at 4.9 percent; for females it was 4.5 percent, the worst record for both groups. Since data became available for age groups in 1968, each age group also recorded its worst level of unemployment, excluding the 35-44 age group for males, and the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups for females.
The number of unemployed people increased by 30,000 over the previous year and stood at 3.2 million in 2000. That figure was over three million for the second successive year, though the magnitude of the increase was smaller than in 1999 (when the increase was 380,000). By gender, 1.96 million males were unemployed; for females the figure was 1.23 million. Both figures were the record high. Comparing the figures on a monthly basis with the same month in 1999, the number of unemployed males fell between May and August and increased afterwards; the number of unemployed females fell between July and October and increased afterwards.
Meanwhile, the annual average number of workers declined by 160,000 to 64.46 million, the third annual drop. By industry, the number of workers in the service sector (which includes the IT industries), transportation and communications increased, whereas fewer were engaged in the construction and manufacturing sectors in 2000. The annual average number of employees increased by 250,000 over the previous year to 53.56 million, the first increase in three years. Employees in non-agricultural industries numbered 53.22 million, an increase of 240,000 people.
By employment status, (1) there were 46.6 million regular employees, a drop of 60,000 from the previous year (the third successive decline); (2) another 5.46 million people were employed as temporary employees, an increase of 360,000 over the year (a trend that has continued since 1976); and (3) the number of day laborers stood at 1.66 million people, a drop of 50,000.
The proportion of all employees in non-agricultural industries who were regular employees was 87.6 percent, down 0.5 percentage point from the previous year. That figure has steadily declined since 1995. In other categories, the number of temporary employees and day laborers has markedly increased. However, the drop in the number of regular employees recorded in 2000 was far smaller than that recorded in 1999, when the drop was 600,000.
The final report of the Working Party Established to Consider the Job Seeking Behavior of High School Students was recently released. The working party had been established by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The report concludes that job vacancies formerly filled by high school graduates are now being filled by university graduates. This reflects a general downward trend in the demand for high school graduates. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, the report cites as major problems (1) the immaturity of the students in their thinking about occupations and the working life; (2) the absence of systematic and continuous guidance through internships and other programs which high schools should provide for students during their schooling; and (3) the declining effectiveness of conventional job placement practices in Japan's high schools.
High school graduates have for many years been a major pool of labor for the service and manufacturing sectors. However, questions have recently been raised about employment practices involving high school graduates. Three practices in particular were questioned: the prearranged linking of certain schools with certain employers in the labor market; the way in which internal selections occurred for specified employers within the high school, and the one-on-one system. The first is a practice whereby a company makes its job vacancies known to specified high schools, and only students of those schools are able to apply. In line with this practice, each high school carries out its own internal selection process to decide which of the students wishing to apply to a certain company should actually be recommended. High schools have also adopted the one-on-one system that restricts each student to applying to a single company. This series of practices used to play a role in the swift and smooth transition of students from school to workplace. These employment practices, however, have also been seen as a factor hindering students from forming their own views about particular kinds of jobs and from making their own career decisions.
The report makes proposals concerning relaxation of the practices. It recommends that students at any high school should be allowed to apply for any job vacancy. In addition, each student should be allowed to apply to a maximum of three companies simultaneously through his or her school.
The report also proposes that in order to encourage high school students to develop their own ideas about occupations and working life, new measures should be taken to promote vocational education from primary school; a career advisor system should be set up by utilizing teachers with specialized training or former businessmen; and to encourage internship programs that enable students to experience for themselves the realities of various vocations.
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