Japan should do more to help young people take part in the labour market


29/5/2017 - Japan should step up efforts to improve young people’s job prospects and reduce the share of 15-29 year-olds who are not in employment, education or training (the “NEETs”), according to a new OECD report.


Investing in Youth - Japan says that the number of young people in work has shrunk by about 1.5 million since 2007 as a result of the declining youth population. Half of all young people in work are on non-regular contracts, more than twice as many as in the early 1990s.


The share of NEETs stood at 10.1% in Japan in 2015, equal to 1.7 million young people. While the share has declined over the past decade, in light of Japan’s rapidly shrinking working-age population and limited immigration, it is essential to support all youth to actively participate in the labour market.


More than two-thirds of NEETs, in particular young women, are not actively looking for work. The NEET gender gap is larger in Japan than in most other OECD countries as many women in their late 20s withdraw from the labour force to care for children. Japan should continue to improve access to childcare to help more young women into work.


An increasing problem is the estimated 320,000 young people below the age of 30 (about 1.8% of this age group) who live in a state of acute social withdrawal – the so-called hikikomori. Many of them require prolonged intensive assistance to reconnect with society, education and work. Social service outreach activities, at schools and in the streets, should be improved to help young people at risk of disengaging. Strengthening collaboration and information-sharing between schools, Hikikomori Support Centres, Regional Youth Support Stations and other social services providers is key.


The Japanese education system produces excellent academic outcomes, and only few young people leave without a high school degree. While the share of students who miss school (futōkō) has doubled since the early 1990s, non-attendance remains low. More learning options for those who cannot attend mainstream schools for personal, social or health reasons need to be developed. Japan should expand special programmes for futōkō students and regulate existing educational options for futōkō students outside the formal schooling system.


Vocational training in Japan is traditionally provided on-the-job by employers, involving schools and the public employment service “Hello Work”. Nearly 98% of high school graduates who chose to enter the labour market were placed with an employer by the end of the 2015-16 academic year. However, this model is becoming less viable as employers increasingly hire temporary workers.


Work-based learning in upper-secondary education should be strengthened, as well as effective active labour market programmes for school graduates who fail to find employment. Training programmes could be scaled up and start-up subsidies introduced.


Read more on Investing in Youth: Japan


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