JILPT Research Report No.156
The Great East Japan Earthquake and Records on Employment and Labor:
1st Compilation Report on the Project to Record the Earthquake (JILPT, Compilation of the Results of the Project to Record the Great East Japan Earthquake No.3)

March 29, 2013


Research Objective

The main purpose of the “Project to Record the Earthquake” is to place emphasis on “recording” vestigial evidence associated with the disaster and extrapolating future tasks and lessons from it. More specifically, the aim is to identify tasks while accumulating knowledge on a variety of issues from the perspective of policy Research. For example, what sort of policy response is required in the event of a major earthquake disaster, with particular reference to employment and labor? And what considerations are necessary, including efforts on the ground, in order to implement this response effectively? This report summarizes the “records” attempted on this basis up to the present time (FY2012).

Research Method

A decision was made to tackle the “Project to Record the Earthquake” as an effort involving all of JILPT, and to divide the work of “recording” into the following seven subgroups. In doing so, the interests and methodological expertise of each Researcher would be utilized to the maximum extent, in view of JILPT’s status as a Research institution.

  1. “Arrangement of published material” group (arranging various published data, etc.)
  2.   “Nationwide company questionnaire” group (questionnaire surveys with companies both in the disaster area and throughout the country, and interview surveys with responding companies)
  3.   “Regional labor authority records” group (interview surveys, etc., with labor-related administrative bodies and others in the three affected prefectures)
  4. “Vocational ability development facility records” group (interview surveys, etc., with public human resource development facilities in Tohoku (including the three affected prefectures) and Ibaraki Prefecture –– Detailed report in JILPT Research Report No.155 (In Japanese))
  5. “Labor and management and other organizational records” group (interview surveys, etc., with companies and corporate organizations, labor unions and others)
  6. “Temporary employment agency & NPO activity records” group (interview surveys with temporary employment agencies, NPOs and others)“Reconstruction follow-up” group (interview surveys, etc., with local administrative bodies, companies and others –– Not included in this Report)

    (In the Report, “records” and observations by groups 1. to 6. above are described in Chapters 1 to 6, respectively.)

Major Findings

1) Summary of measures for employment and labor

A variety of measures were implemented for employment and labor in connection with the Great East Japan Earthquake. They included (i) housing support for disaster victims (use of “employment promotion housing”); (ii) job introduction and job seekers support (field consultation in evacuation shelters and elsewhere, provision of job vacancy information for disaster victims, exceptional measures for payment or extended payment of employment insurance covering work layoffs, employment support for new graduates and young people, etc.); (iii) support for employers and others seeking staff (creation of special advice desks, grants for employment of disaster victims, special measures for employment adjustment subsidies, enhancement of human resource development support projects, etc.); (iv) support for vocational ability development (early recovery of facilities, expansion of public training to meet needs in the disaster area, enhancement of grants for training by businesses, etc.); (v) industrial safety and health measures (prevention of industrial accidents in recovery projects, response to the nuclear accident, etc.); (vi) and special measures for industrial accident compensation.

2) From the results of the nationwide company questionnaire survey

The questionnaire survey targeting companies all over Japan produced the following results. (i) Many companies implemented internal support, such as sending relief supplies and backup personnel to business establishments affected by the disaster. (ii) In establishments where the business scale was temporarily forced to downscale, although not completely shut down due to disaster damage, in many cases business activity trends began to show signs of a significant recovery some months after the disaster, and had more or less recovered to their original levels after about one year. (iii) Although the downscaling of business activity in damaged establishments led to surplus personnel in around half of business establishments, and wide-ranging employment adjustments were carried out, this involved temporary layoffs in many cases (Figure), and broad use was made of employment adjustment subsidies when doing so. (iv) The “summer of power savings” due to the power use restriction order issued in summer 2011 affected many companies (particularly large corporations), which in many cases responded by changing their operating or business hours (time bands) and days. Finally, (v) companies responded to this earthquake disaster with a variety of support, including monetary donations and relief supplies, sending disaster volunteers, and so on.

Figure: Response to cope with surplus personnel (when business establishments were closed down, or the temporary suspension or downscaling of business activity in damaged establishments led to surplus personnel)

Image, Figure

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Source: JILPT "Survey on the Great East Japan Earthquake and Corporate Activity" (conducted May 2012)

3) Labor administration needs and response of regional labor authorities in the disaster area

As the response of labor authorities in the disaster area, emergency response when the disaster occurred consisted of action with primary emphasis on human safety, including that of facility visitors at the time. In some places, however, relief could not be received quickly when the facilities of the authority were themselves damaged, while in others the disaster victims had to be temporarily accommodated within the facilities on an emergency basis. Subsequently, with rising administrative needs related to the earthquake disaster (including applications for employment insurance, industrial accident insurance, employment adjustment subsidies, and proxy payment of unpaid wages), emergency advice desks were set up and service also provided at weekends. The result of this was that administrative sites were extremely busy at peak times. Meanwhile, as well as the response by Inspection Offices and Hello Work (the public employment security offices), staff also traveled to evacuation shelters, temporary housing, and elsewhere to give advice, etc. When doing so, the characteristics of institutions with a nationwide spread were harnessed to send staff from all over Japan, while applications were received, employment supported and other services provided in remote evacuation sites. Finally, dustproof masks were distributed and safety patrols were also carried out to prevent industrial accidents accompanying the recovery and reconstruction work.

4) Disaster response in human resource development facilities

Human resource development facilities are used by trainees on a daily or residential basis, depending on the facility. In view of this characteristic, these facilities have the serious mission of ensuring the safety of trainees in the event of a disaster. In terms of the response by human resource development facilities in the disaster area, best efforts to this end were made by the various facilities immediately after the disaster occurred. Meanwhile, even facilities that were damaged by the disaster managed to resume their training programs quickly, sometimes with a change of location. Once the recovery and reconstruction phase had started, vocational training courses were newly created or expanded to meet the needs of the disaster area. Consequently, job placements after the completion of training are still at the high level recorded before the disaster.

5) Response of labor and management

Starting immediately after the disaster, labor and management organizations focused their energies on relief for disaster-stricken employees and their families, support for the recovery of workplaces and homes, and other similar efforts. Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) and Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) harnessed their organizational strengths to develop disaster area support and volunteer dispatch, as well as donations of supplies and money on a previously unknown scale.

6) Efforts by temporary employment agencies and NPOs - Employment of disaster victims supporting reconstruction

Although employment for disaster victims was created under emergency employment creation fund projects (for example, as temporary housing support workers in prefectures and municipalities), a significant role in this process was played by NPOs, temporary employment agencies and others.

Policy Implications

1) Phase of emergency response immediately after a disaster occurs (accommodating disaster victims in evacuation shelters)

As well as implementing the above-mentioned emergency response when a disaster occurs, organizations in the field also issue public information about related measures and the procedures involved. For the central government, it is important to grasp the situation, then to study and prepare the necessary policy response while enumerating the characteristics of the disaster in question and mobilizing all existing policy means under fixed simulation.

2) Phase of efforts to temporarily stabilize the lives of disaster victims (transferring from evacuation shelters to temporary housing and temporary residences)

While organizations in the field act in response to relevant administrative needs, it is also important that they quickly and efficiently create the required support posture, since administrative sites are extremely busy at peak times. For the central government, meanwhile, it is important to implement policy response such as easing conditions for policies and systems in providing an accurate response to the situation.

3) Phase of efforts to stabilize the lives of disaster victims from long-term perspectives (rebuilding homes, reconstruction housing, etc.)

In terms of the present disaster, this phase has only just begun. While creating "records" is a task for the future, certain efforts have been highlighted as being particularly important at the current stage. These include (a) paying close attention to the various reconstruction plans and striving to develop local employment while maintaining links with these, (b) creating systems enabling career inquiries from disaster victims to be received sympathetically, and (c) making use of job seeker support systems, as human resource development plays a major role in securing opportunities for stable employment from long-term perspectives.

Policy Contribution

Recording actions taken in connection with the Great East Japan Earthquake is in itself thought capable of making a policy contribution. The most important thing is felt to be that personnel in charge of related work should read these "records" at least once and draw lessons from them in their respective standpoints, and then, each time they change departments, make a habit of re-appraising "what needs to be done" in the new department should a major disaster such as this one occur.


  1. Cover – Introduction – Authors – Contents

  2. Preface  Summary of the “Project to Record the Earthquake” and the 1st Report

  3. Chapter 1   Overview of Damage Caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake (What Happened)

  4. Chapter 2   The State of Damage to Companies and Summary of Efforts for Recovery and Reconstruction –– From the results of the “Survey on the Great East Japan Earthquake and Corporate Activity” conducted in May 2012

  5. Chapter 3   Labor Administration Needs, Labor Supply and Demand, and the Response of Labor Authorities in the Disaster Area
  6. Chapter 4    Records from Disaster Response in Human Resource Development Facilities to Recovery and Reconstruction

  7. Chapter 5   How Did Labor and Management Respond after the Great East Japan Earthquake?

  8. Chapter 6   Employment of Disaster Victims Supporting the Reconstruction – The Work of Emergency Temporary Housing Support Workers and the Role Played by Funds

  9. Concluding Chapter   Suggestions for Disaster Response in Employment and Labor Policies (Tentative Enumeration)

Research Categories

Project Research “Research on Strategic Labor/Employment Policies for Non-regular Workers”

Subtheme “JILPT Survey Research Project on Recovery and Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Employment and Labor (Project to Record the Earthquake)”

Research Period

FY2012 (part started in FY2011)


Yutaka ASAO>
Research Director General, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training (JILPT)
Shinichi UMEZAWA
Research Director, JILPT
Research Director, JILPT
Project Researcher, JILPT
Research Assistant, JILPT
Noboru OGINO
Director, Research & Statistical Information Analysis Department, JILPT
Akira ENDO
Deputy Senior Research Officer, Research & Statistical Information Analysis Department, JILPT
Deputy Senior Research Officer, Research & Statistical Information Analysis Department, JILPT
Akiko ONO
Vice Senior Researcher, JILPT

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