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2008年12月19日 (金)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 17(IHT/Asahi: December 18,2008)

EDITORIAL: Rising unemployment


More workers are losing their jobs, being forced out of their homes and wondering how they will earn a living from tomorrow. Do the politicians of this country truly understand the pressing sense of crisis and emergency under which people are now living?



The three major opposition parties, including Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), submitted an emergency job measures bill to the Upper House on Monday. The legislation seeks to cope with the job losses now sweeping the country amid the global financial crisis.


The proposal would: require companies to explain in writing the reasons for withdrawing tentative promises of employment; expand the coverage of the employment adjustment subsidy program for employers to curb dismissals of nonregular employees; allow people who lose their jobs and living quarters access to public housing and livelihood assistance payments; and other steps.


Most of these ideas overlap the employment measures previously announced by Prime Minister Taro Aso. The ruling parties certainly must be aware that the job situation is grave and that there is no time to waste.


But the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is reluctant to deliberate the opposition bill. If the current situation continues, any lawmaking will be pushed back to the ordinary Diet session early next year. This course of action is difficult to fathom.


The ruling parties most likely feel that they were the ones to move first in determining job measures.


Thus, their current attitude is clearly a backlash against Minshuto's tactic of submitting a bill toward the end of the current Diet session in an attempt to underscore the policy vacuum of the Aso administration.


Yet the coalition parties were the ones that initially invited the delay in taking action on employment. Despite hammering out details of a second supplementary budget, which includes job stimulation, they deferred on submitting that plan to the Diet until next year because they feared they would be forced to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election in the course of discussing that budget.


The economy has worsened at a pace unthinkable just a month ago. The wave of downsizing is advancing with fierce momentum. Scenes of tens of thousands of unemployed people overflowing the streets are rapidly becoming a reality.


Under such dire circumstances, obsessing over the empty honor of being the first to come up with a labor plan is unpardonable.


Both the ruling and opposition parties accuse each other of having no viable policies or being uncooperative, resulting in a delay in the passage of the crucial package of job measures. That is tantamount to abandoning all political accountability.


One municipality, exasperated by the policy foot-dragging by the government and the Diet, is taking matters into its own hand. All political parties should regard the municipality's move as a searing criticism of the parties' administrative impotence.


With winter setting in, and increasing numbers of people in limbo about how they will muddle through the New Year's season, it is ridiculous to delay action until the ordinary Diet session convenes next month.


The most effective policy steps in the measures drawn up by the ruling parties or the bill submitted by the opposition camp should be introduced immediately.


To break the current deadlock, the LDP must first agree to debate the opposition's draft bill.


Considering the current situation, the parties can't afford to prolong their confrontation. Instead of bickering, they must quickly pool their ideas and push forward real countermeasures. If there are sections of the bill that require amending, the parties need to get to work and pass the legislation by the end of the current Diet session.


Politicians must not abandon the public at the height of such painful economic times.


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