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Listed companies in Japan offered voluntary early retirement to at least 18,635 employees in 2020, marking the highest level in 11 years, Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd. said Thursday.

The number of companies that made public voluntary retirement offers stood at 93, 2.6 times the previous year’s level, the private credit research agency said.

Efforts to trim workforces were especially evident in sectors impacted by the novel coronavirus crisis, such as the apparel industry.

The number of employees offered voluntary early retirement reflects the 80 companies that disclosed details of their programs.

Hitachi Metals Ltd. , a unit of electronics and machinery giant Hitachi Ltd. , had the largest voluntary early retirement scheme, covering 1,030 workers.

Apartment rental business Leopalace21 Corp. followed, with 1,000 employees subject to its scheme.

By industry, the apparel and textile goods sector saw the most companies offering voluntary early retirement, at 18, while the automotive and electronics sectors saw 11 companies, respectively.

The figure stood at seven for both retailers and operators of restaurant and bars.

Of the listed companies offering voluntary early retirement programs, 51, or over half, posted losses in their latest business years.

Companies that cannot foresee an end to their woes are being slowly stripped of their strength amid the unabated crisis, with eight announcing voluntary early retirement schemes twice last year.

The number of companies offering such retirement programs has already reached 22 this year, almost double the pace of the year before.

“There are concerns of a further decline in employment conditions,” a Tokyo Shoko Research official said.

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