The steep economic downturn is causing a large number of job losses. As unemployment worsens, some local governments have started offering job opportunities to those who have been fired. Along with such measures, there is a pressing need for both the central and local governments to provide adequate vocational training for the unemployed.

Traditionally, companies provided on-the-job training to pass down skills to newly employed workers. But as more companies cut production costs by relying on a large number of temporary workers, their capacity to provide job training has declined.

Job training, however, is becoming all the more important. Training not only helps people find work; it also helps companies get competent workers. If the number of workers lacking skills or professional licenses keeps increasing, the quality of the nation’s human resources will deteriorate. And such a trend would eventually weaken the nation’s social fabric.

One good sign is a move by the health and welfare ministry. With the help of public employment security offices (PESOs), it will offer jobless people a two-year nursing-care license training course. The ministry will also offer other nursing-care related training courses. The government will shoulder the costs and the ministry hopes that about 26,000 people will take the courses in fiscal 2009.

Some local governments are also helping to train jobless people to become agricultural workers. Programs include working and training at farms, with salaries and training fees partly subsidized by local governments.

Government leaders should realize that Japan’s publicly run vocational training system lags far behind those of other developed nations in terms of long-term unemployment insurance coverage for jobless people and free vocational training that enables people to acquire the skills for a new job.

The central and local governments need to do more. One way would be to develop a system that provides people with a livelihood and a place of residence while they undergo job training supported by specialized organizations.

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