The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will seek 205.8 billion yen in budget requests for fiscal 2002 to help build a safety net for people expected to lose their jobs under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s structural reforms, ministry officials said Saturday.

The sum, if endorsed, would be used to subsidize companies that accept people who were forced to leave their jobs because of corporate restructuring, they said.

The assistance package would include special subsidies for the construction sector to provide financial assistance to firms that accept older employees who have been made redundant at other companies within the corporate group due to restructuring and offer to retain them beyond the age of 61. Of the 205.8 billion yen, some 16.8 billion yen will be sought for steps to support this shift in labor.

The ministry will also propose 7.4 billion yen be earmarked in the fiscal 2002 state budget to provide vocational training to those intent on working in information technology areas.

The training program would use private vocational schools to provide such courses to about 200,000 people, while an additional 500,000 would take courses to enhance skills using personal computers.

The moves comes as observers point to the mismatch between jobs available — often in IT-related sectors — and the skills of those seeking employment.

The ministry will also seek 11.1 billion yen to establish advisory councils across Japan to help create jobs in the services sector.

The proposed councils would consist of experts from private companies, universities and nonprofit organizations, they said.

Concerns over unemployment, which is expected to have hit a record 5 percent or more in July, have continued to dampen consumer sentiment.

Once the structural reforms touted by Koizumi actually get on track, an even greater number of people are feared to lose their jobs, and some experts question whether the government is doing enough to construct a labor safety net in time.

10% spending cut eyed

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry plans to cut spending on public corporations under its supervision by 10 percent in its budget requests for fiscal 2002, ministry sources said Friday.

The planned cut spells a decrease of about 130 billion yen from the budget for fiscal 2001 which ends next March, the sources said.

The ministry will shortly notify the government’s secretariat for administrative reform of the plan, which is designed to comply with reformist Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s resolve to slash annual spending on government-funded public corporations by 1 trillion yen in fiscal 2002 from 5.3 trillion yen in the past and achieve a 10 percent cut in public works spending.

The ministry is planning the biggest cut, of 50 billion yen, or 11 percent, for Government Housing Loan Corp. Japan Highway Public Corp. will also face a large cut of 33 billion yen, or 11 percent.

On projects that consist of contributions from the ministry and other financial resources such as loans from the government’s fiscal investment and loan program, funds available for public corporations under the ministry’s supervision are planned to be reduced by 18 percent, or 2.6 trillion yen.

The ministry is eyeing a cut of 23 percent, or 2.47 trillion yen, for the housing corporation partly by reducing the number of homes eligible for its loans from 550,000 to 500,000. A cut of 7 percent, or 134 billion yen, is planned for the highway corporation through cost reductions and scaled-back highway construction.

But the ministry plans to avoid spending cuts for the deficit-ridden Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority and Japan Railway Construction Public Corp., which is engaged in the construction of bullet train lines.

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