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2008年12月22日 (月)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 20(IHT/Asahi: December 22,2008)

EDITORIAL: Get moving on job crisis


We are in the middle of a recessionary blizzard as the year approaches the finish line in just over a week. Some people who have suddenly been sacked are now homeless and living on the streets. Once the government and business offices close for the holidays on Dec. 27, they will not open again until Jan. 5. In the meantime, how are these suddenly jobless and homeless people supposed to survive the freezing nights? How are they to feed themselves? There must be more than a few people feeling desperate.



With a third of its work force hired as irregular employees, this recession has hit Japan's new labor environment hard. Companies view such employees as adjustment valves, and fire them with little thought. In such an environment, an economic downturn has an immediate and major impact on employment as has never been seen before.


This is where politicians have to step in and react quickly. However, the parties are playing out a political farce within the Diet that seems devoid of a sense of crisis.


Three opposition parties, including Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), have submitted and passed an emergency employment bill in the Upper House, but amazingly, Prime Minister Taro Aso and the ruling coalition are bent on burying this in the Lower House.


Many features of the bill are similar to what the government has already proposed, like making public housing and financial aid available to those who've lost their jobs and homes.


The ruling parties brush off the bill as "opposition grandstanding."


They probably want to say, why not wait until the new year when the regular session of the Diet is scheduled to pass the second supplementary budget bill that includes employment security measures.


Granted, the opposition is indeed maneuvering with tactical objectives in sight, intent on underscoring the ineptness of the Aso administration which has already postponed submission of the second supplementary budget bill to the Diet. The opposition has also been rash in forcing a vote within the Upper House without sufficient debate.


However, the important thing here is speed and the ability to move with alacrity to implement security measures so that the newly jobless can receive relief quickly. Even if you have a plan, it will not be ready for the holiday season if it needs legislation or budget appropriations. The opposition's criticism is on the mark here.


We find it hard to understand why the prime minister refused to accept Minshuto's call for a meeting of the two party's leaders. In a crisis situation of such proportions, shouldn't the leaders of the two major parties meet and talk, and if necessary, revise the bill so as to implement measures quickly? Minshuto leader Ichiro Ozawa also could have demonstrated his determination by holding a news conference to call for a summit meeting.


On Friday, Aso visited a public job center "Hello Work" in Shibuya, Tokyo. There he talked to a man looking for a job and said to him, "Unless you know what you want to do, an employer will find it hard to be interested in you."


The prime minister was probably trying to be helpful and to give sound advice, but we wonder if his words really made a real impression upon the job-seeker. The public is not looking for its prime minister to be a job counselor.


There are still a few more days until the current Diet session closes.


We urge the prime minister to forego his holidays. He should seek cooperation from the opposition parties and promote whatever legislation is necessary for emergency job security measures.



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