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Alarmed by the nation’s rising unemployment rate, the government on Friday set a goal of creating 770,000 jobs in four sectors during the next two years.

At the sixth meeting of a government task force on improving the nation’s industrial structure and employment, members also agreed to promote deregulation.

The task force, headed by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and comprising all Cabinet ministers, is trying to deal with an unemployment rate that in January remained at a record-high 4.4 percent.

Its plan calls for expanding the number of jobs in the fields of health and welfare, information and telecommunications, tourism and housing and related industries.

The task force predicts the health and welfare industry will create about 100,000 jobs in the next fiscal year. Of those, 80,000 jobs are expected by expanding the number of nursing homes for the elderly and increasing the number of nurses.

In addition, by extending service hours and increasing the capacity of the homes, the government expects to see 16,000 more jobs. Information technology-
related industries are expected to nurture nearly 180,000 jobs.

But how job growth will be achieved here is more tenuous. The task force simply said it hopes to promote electronic commerce and bolster related businesses. It expects that the market for Internet-related businesses will continue to grow, and that the so-called millennium bug computer problem will spur corporate investment and stimulate the job market. “Because information and telecommunications is a growth industry from now on, (we) will try to boost employment in this field as much as possible in collaboration with the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry,” International Trade and Industry Minister Kaoru Yosano said.

As for housing and related industries, the task force figures about 400,000 employment opportunities can be realized through an increase in housing starts.

To increase the number of housing starts, however, the government appears to be banking on an increase in the amount of housing-related loans as well as an expanded number of tax exemptions related to housing.

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