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Companies in Japan say excess labor forces were reduced in August from May, according to a quarterly survey released Friday by the Labor Ministry.

The diffusion index for excess labor forces stood at minus 6 in August, indicating there are more companies that feel they have an excessive number of workers than those that are short of workers.

The August index, however, was an improvement from the minus 10 in May, the latest Survey on Labor Economic Trends indicates.

The index hit minus 15 in August and November 1999 and has since been rising, indicating that corporate managers are feeling that excess work forces are being gradually reduced.

A Labor Ministry official said the index could soon reach zero.

The diffusion index is calculated by subtracting the ratio of those companies that say they have an excessive work force from the ratio of those saying they are short of full-time employees.

Industries such as construction, manufacturing and wholesale/retailing were among those that felt they had reduced their excessive work forces in August from May.

By type of work, however, corporate managers are increasingly sensing a lack of technology specialists and skilled engineers.

The survey also indicates that 23 percent of all companies polled cut their work forces in the April-June period, down from 25 percent for the January-March period.

The latest survey was conducted Aug. 1. The results are based on questionnaires sent to 5,342 firms employing 30 workers or more each. The response rate was 58 percent.

Labor ministers meet

SEOUL (Kyodo) South Korean and Japanese labor ministers agreed Friday to further promote mutual exchanges on labor affairs, South Korean officials said.

During their talks, Labor Minister Yoshio Yoshikawa and Kim Ho Jin, South Korea’s Labor Affairs Minister, also agreed to assist in labor affairs in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, they said.

Kim and Yoshikawa agreed that their ministries should hold working-level talks to discuss what assistance on labor affairs can be provided to those nations.

Meanwhile, representatives from Japanese and South Korean labor and employers’ organizations also discussed ways to protect workers’ rights, including those of part-time workers.

Yoshikawa and representatives of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and the Japan Federation of Employers Associations (Nikkeiren) arrived in Seoul on Thursday for a three-day visit for talks with their South Korean counterparts.

Their visit results from a Japan-South Korea joint declaration and an accompanying action plan announced in October 1998 during South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s visit to Japan.

Japan and South Korea agreed to promote mutual exchanges among labor, management and government officials when then South Korean Labor Minister Lee Ki Ho visited Japan in December 1998 with representatives from South Korean labor and employers federations.

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