Disaster-hit towns face massive staff shortages


Earthquake- and tsunami-hit Tohoku municipalities are suffering from severe staff shortages for reconstruction projects.

More than 30 percent of posts for such projects remain vacant in 52 municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures — the three hardest hit by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake — prefectural officials said.

The shortages are serious since municipalities are cutting staff via administrative reforms.

According to officials, reconstruction projects require 1,538 new workers, of which 1,052 have been secured so far through new hiring and temporary deployments from other municipalities, leaving 486 posts still unfilled.

Over half of the required posts in Fukushima municipalities, 106, remain unfilled. Miyagi needs 290 more workers, 30.3 percent of the required total, and Iwate must fill 90 more slots, or 24.3 percent.

The shortages are particularly noticeable in the land acquisition and civil engineering fields, which handle reconstruction of ports as well as the development of residential land.

In Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, a mere 10 workers are managing a total of 111 construction sites for a project to restore tsunami-hit fishing ports. The project, targeted for completion by March 2016, requires a budget of ¥15 billion — almost half of the city’s overall annual budget before the disaster.

In Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, just 10 workers are handling land acquisition talks that involve more than 2,000 residents.

An official at a local government in Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, complained that municipalities outside the prefecture are reluctant to send staff due to concerns about radiation exposure.

Staff shortages will be more acute in the next fiscal year, when rebuilding kicks into full gear.

“It is even difficult to maintain the current number of workers, and staff deployment from outside is crucial,” an Iwate prefectural government official said.