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The Management and Coordination Agency surveys about 100,000 people aged 15 and older every month asking whether they have a job — including any part-time work for which they are paid — or were trying to find a job during the final week of the previous month.

The unemployment rate reflects a ratio of those who were unable to find jobs during that week against the number of people who either had jobs or were looking for work. Under this formula, people who do not have jobs but are not attempting to find them are not counted as “unemployed.” This is often seen as one of the major reasons that Japan’s unemployment rate has remained relatively low among major industrialized nations.

The agency defines the unemployed as those who are seeking jobs and can start working immediately if they find one. The increase in bankruptcies and personnel cutbacks at Japanese firms because of the economic slowdown are the biggest causes of the rising unemployment rate, said Shinya Iijima, director of the agency’s labor force statistics division.

But another significant factor that has boosted jobless figures is the trend of young people toward switching jobs instead of remaining with one employer for their entire career, he said. The unemployed includes people who remain jobless after leaving their previous job to find better or more suitable work. People in this situation are often in their teens and early 20s, according to the agency.

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