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Program Aims to Find Steady Jobs for Young Workers (June 14, 2005)

A company that hires employees on a trial basis (Sharp Document 21 yoshida)
Many developed countries have been grappling with a common headache - how to create decent job opportunities for young people amid rising unemployment and the spread of low-paying irregular work. In some cases, the problem stems from a gap between the image young workers have of the employer or job they aspire to and the reality of the workplace. Japan's approach to this problem is attracting attention around the world for its focus on matching young people with jobs that suit them.

Closing the Perception Gap
Under a program launched by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare in December 2001, employers can hire young workers on a trial basis for periods lasting in principle for three months. The program is largely aimed at eliminating the situation whereby young employees quit their jobs after only working for two or three years, often because they feel the job is not what they had hoped. Each company that takes on young workers receives a monthly subsidy of ¥50,000 ($476 at ¥105 to the dollar) per worker for the duration of the trial. Once the trial period is over, employees may be hired on a permanent basis, provided the employer and employee both agree that they are suited for each other.

The program's participants are all under the age of 35 and are introduced to companies by Hello Work, a nationwide network of public employment offices. The trial period is a time for the workers to consider whether the job they are doing suits them, as well as being an opportunity to determine what kind of efforts they need to make to improve their skills. The employers, meanwhile, use the trial periods to assess whether the workers have the right kind of attitude and abilities to be a successful member of their team.

A trading company that deals in dental equipment has hired eight people through the program. The company, located in Taito Ward, Tokyo, is engaged in a wide range of business activities, from consulting on the establishment of dental clinics to supplying dental equipment and drugs to newly established clinics. As well as specialist knowledge, the company gauges its trial workers for aptitude and skills, such as whether they can build a relationship of trust with clients. "We use this system to ensure we hire the most suitable human resources, because deciding to hire someone in a short period of time carries a high level of risk,” a company representative says.

The Freeter Fix
Roughly 37,700 workers participated in the program during fiscal 2003, with 32,000 of them making it through the entire trial period, according to the ministry. Of this latter group, 80% were taken on as full-time regular employees. The ministry is aiming to increase the number of participants to 60,000 in fiscal 2005.

The ministry hopes that many of the participants will be freeters (young people who work one or more part-time jobs rather than in full-time salaried positions). The number of people aged between 15 and 34 who have graduated from school and are content to work as freeters or hope to work as freeters stood at 2.17 million in 2003 and is rising by around 100,000 a year.

Yet now that the labor market is showing small but encouraging signs of improvement, the ministry wants to see more of these freeters become full-time salaried workers. One of the steps it has taken to achieve that goal is to raise the maximum age of freeter participants in the trial employment program from 29 to 34, which it did in October 2004. This is part of the ministry's plan to continue expanding the program, which has proven successful during its first few years.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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