Spike feared in idled-temp suicides

by Natsuko Fukue

Nonprofit organizations and Diet members fear they will see a surge in suicides among temporary workers subjected to massive dismissals as the plunging economy gives them no room to survive with little financial or housing support.

Suicides in 2007 surpassed 30,000 for the 10th straight year, but unlike in 1998, when the unemployment rate topped 4 percent for the first time ever and key financial firms went bust, idled temp workers now lack the protections provided to laid-off workers a decade ago.

NGO and Diet members gathered Thursday to call on the government to take measures to prevent suicides among the temp ranks, including by providing shelter and other means of support.

They also urged the government to provide more consultations and accommodations, as well as information-sharing among consultants in the government and private sector.

“We must take immediate measures to prevent suicides,” said Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Mitsuyoshi Yanagisawa, who participated in the meeting.

On Dec. 18, a nonpartisan Diet group petitioned the Cabinet Office to take emergency measures to prevent suicides laid to economic troubles, including releasing a monthly report on the suicide situation and providing consultations to those in need.

Since suicides surged when the economy was tanking in the past, participants fear this will happen again, only worse.

March 1998 saw 3,265 suicides, compared with 2,281 the previous month. The spike coincided with the events that troubled the end of business 1997, according to Yasuyuki Shimizu, head of Tokyo-based NPO Lifelink Suicide Prevention Action Network, who organized Thursday’s meeting.

Fiscal 1997 saw major securities firms go bankrupt and the jobless rate top 4 percent.

“The situation for workers under the economic depression is much more grave this year than in 1998. People who lost their jobs in 1998 received unemployment benefits and retirement allowance, and were supported by labor unions,” the DPJ’s Yanagisawa said. “This time, a lot of young people are suffering (without support).”

Some laid-off temp workers who have no housing or financial support either at the central or local government level become so desperate that they take their own lives, according to NPO worker Yukio Shige, who has been trying to keep people from leaping to their deaths off the scenic cliffs of Tojinbo in Fukui Prefecture.