18/12/2008 - Young people in Japan are finding it increasingly hard to get stable jobs and the Japanese authorities should expand vocational training schemes and increase social security coverage for young non-regular workers in order to help them, according to a new OECD publication.
The unemployment rate of 15 to 24 year olds fell to 7.7% in Japan in 2007, down from 9.9% in 2002 and well below the OECD average of 13.4%, according to Jobs for Youth: Japan. But long-term unemployment rose to 21% among 15 to 24 year olds, up from 18% a decade ago, and the youth employment rate, at 41.5% in 2007, remains lower than a decade ago and below the OECD average of 43.6%.
Young people are severely affected by the growing dualism in the Japanese labour market. In 2007, around one in three young workers aged 15-24, excluding students, were in so-called non-regular work, such as temporary or part-time jobs. These jobs provide low income and social insurance coverage and little potential for people to develop their skills and careers. It is also difficult to move from temporary into permanent work, leaving many young people trapped in precarious jobs.
To help young people in temporary or part-time jobs, known as freeters, the Japanese government has introduced a series of reforms. These include setting up a residential training camp for discouraged youth, job cafés, a one-stop service centre for young jobseekers, and the Job Card system to promote vocational training and career development.
The report welcomes these initiatives and makes a number of recommendations for further reforms:
• Reinforce the links between education and the labour market. Schools, especially tertiary education institutions, should set up closer ties with business in order to give students the skills that firms need. Business and industry representatives should help shape the curricula and the skills of graduates. This might be encouraged by, for example, developing a formal structure to promote communication and collaboration between universities and business associations.
• Expand public vocational training for young people. The new Job Card system is a promising step forward and should be reinforced by, for example, promoting business participation in providing practical training opportunities and work experience. The government should also work closely with social partners to agree how to share the burden of financing training between firms, workers and the public purse and between the different public funds, such as general budgets and the Employment Insurance fund.
• Reduce the gap in effective protection between regular and non-regular workers and tackle discriminatory practices in wages and benefits. This would include increasing the employment protection and social security coverage for fixed-term, part-time and temporary agency workers, while easing the employment protection for workers on regular contracts. These measures need to be developed and implemented as a part of comprehensive reform package to enhance both security and flexibility in the labour market.
• Strengthen active labour market programmes for young people, with more precise targeting and detailed evaluations. The scale of some existing programmes is far too small to respond adequately to the needs of the high numbers of young people at risk or in precarious jobs. More public resources should be spent on such programmes, with more emphasis on helping people who leave school with weak qualifications.
Jobs for Youth: Japan (Des emplois pour les jeunes : Japon), is the latest in a series of OECD reports on youth employment policies which now covers sixteen countries. The executive summary and recommendations are available here. Read more about the series here - www.oecd.org/employment/youth
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