Japan’s labor shortages eclipse economic recovery


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Despite a gradual improvement in economic conditions in Japan, a labor shortage is slowly starting to be felt in sectors such as food service and manufacturing where many people have decided to change jobs while on leave in Japan. in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A sharp drop in the number of foreign workers and students due to the pandemic measures has also had a significant impact on the labor shortage, highlighting Japan’s dependence on foreigners in the workforce. -work.

Warakuan, a soba noodle restaurant in Tokyo’s Taito district, was busy late last month when year-end gatherings usually take place and orders for toshikoshi soba, a traditional dish eaten at the end of the day. of the year, increase.

But the restaurant was understaffed during the holiday season following the resignation of five employees during the state of emergency when business operations were curtailed.

According to the Bank of Japan’s Quarterly Economic Survey Tankan released last month, the ‘excess employment’ minus ‘insufficient employment’ index for accommodation, food and beverage services was minus 17, a sharp drop from report at most 19 in September.

The labor shortage rapidly worsened after restrictions on business activities were relaxed in late September following the end of the state of emergency.

The labor situation is pushing hourly wages up. United and Collective Co, which operates the Teketeke izakaya chain, has increased hourly wages by an average of 130 yen ($ 1.10) at around 80 outlets since October.

Hourly wages are 1,450 yen for regular shifts in some outlets in central Tokyo and over 1,800 yen for night shifts after 10 p.m. Despite this, the company said it closed nine stores at the end of last year because it was unable to hire enough staff.

According to Dip Corp, which operates the job board website Baitoru, the average hourly wage for part-time restaurant workers was 1,036 yen in November, up 3.4% or 34 yen year-on-year and of 12 yen mo. month.

The increase in job openings in the food service industry was higher than that of all other industries.

Nakazato Corp, which operates six restaurants in the Tokyo metropolitan area, increased her hourly wages when she hired staff after the state of emergency. “We were able to hire people who wanted to change jobs during the pandemic,” said the president of the company.

Labor shortages are also having an impact on the manufacturing industry. Automakers have hired more short-term workers and raised wages.

Interworks Inc, which operates a manufacturing job board, said the average hourly wage in the industry was 1,363 yen in November, up 96 yen year-on-year.

According to the Tankan survey, the “excessive employment” minus “insufficient employment” index for the entire manufacturing industry was minus 14, the lowest level since the minus 15 recorded in the March 2020 survey.

Demand for automobiles and home appliances has been strong amid the pandemic, and workers are needed to ramp up production, following operating cuts due to semiconductor shortages.

A sharp drop in the number of foreigners coming to Japan has exacerbated labor shortages in a wide range of industries.

The manufacturing sector relies on foreign interns in the workforce, but the number of those entering Japan in 2020 fell to around 105,000, down 55% from the previous year, according to the ‘Japan Immigration Service Agency. During the January-October period of last year, around 26,000 foreign interns came to Japan.

The number of foreign students, many of whom work part-time in restaurants and other businesses, who entered Japan to attend school in 2020 also fell by 68% from the previous year to around 163,000. Only around 28,000 were studying in Japan between January and October last year.

In anticipation of a recovery in the tourism sector, the transport industry has rushed to secure drivers, whose numbers have plummeted following the outbreak of the pandemic.

Bus driver positions on the Doranabi job board doubled in Tokyo and Osaka in December, compared to the summer period.

“It is difficult to predict when the number of foreign visitors will return to pre-pandemic levels as it depends on the pandemic situation in Japan and abroad,” said Shinichiro Kobayashi, chief researcher at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. “As the Japanese economy recovers, the labor shortage could get even worse.

The number of people unemployed for more than a year is increasing despite labor shortages.

According to the labor force survey of the Ministry of the Interior and Communications, the monthly average of long-term unemployed was 680,000 for the period July-September 2021, up 180,000 compared to the same period. the previous year. A workforce mismatch is believed to be at the root of the problem.

Office workers who lose their jobs tend to seek out similar roles. They avoid finding jobs in relatively low-paying fields such as food and nursing services, resulting in prolonged unemployment. In some cases, it is believed that some people have not been able to find a job because they do not have the required skills.

The ratio of job vacancies to job seekers in November was 0.29 for office jobs, but 3.70 for nursing jobs and 4.20 for construction jobs, which indicates that job seekers outnumber vacancies for office positions while the latter areas are experiencing severe labor shortages.

A 52-year-old woman who was looking for a job at a HelloWork employment office in Tokyo said she left a temporary position in an office in June 2020 because she fell ill.

“I’m looking for a clerical job because it’s an area I have a lot of experience in, but the employment agency continues to recommend nursing positions,” she said. “But it’s hard for me to do that kind of work because I have a problem with my back.”

In the supplementary budget for fiscal year 2021, the government included an extension of a system under which the unemployed can receive training while receiving benefits to address the problem of workforce mismatch.

It will offer grants to universities that offer courses for workers who wish to change careers and enter the medical and nursing industry.

THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN INFORMATION NETWORK (JAPAN) / ASIA

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