As the employment situation worsens in the midst of the deepening economic crisis, it is feared that more people may commit suicide. In 2007, the latest year for which annual suicide statistics are available, 33,093 people killed themselves, making it the 10th consecutive year that suicides topped 30,000.

The first year of this grim streak, 1998, saw the number of suicides jump by some 8,400 from the previous year’s figure of roughly 24,000. The number of people who committed suicide jumped in March that year when the business year ended for most firms. The year before, significant numbers of small and medium-size enterprises began failing due to a credit crunch. The current situation in which a large number of workers, mainly irregular workers, are losing jobs, has spawned fears that 2009 could be a similarly appalling year.

In view of the situation, the National Police Agency has decided to compile and issue a monthly report on the number of people who have killed themselves. If everything goes according to schedule, the January figures will be made public this month.

In 2007, the government set a goal of decreasing the suicide rate — the number of suicides per 100,000 people — by 20 percent or more from the level of 2005 by 2016. It is hoped that the NPA’s new practice will prompt government and nongovernment organizations pursue more effective policies to prevent suicides.

Of the people who killed themselves in 2007, those aged 60 or over formed the largest group at 12,107, followed by people in their 50s (7,046) and people in their 40s (5,096). Health problems, including depression, accounted for 14,684 suicides; financial and livelihood problems, 7,318; family problems, 3,751; and work-related problems, 2,207.

It is likely that poor business conditions, overwork, unemployment, debts and depression lead people to contemplate suicide. Government and non-government organizations should work together to establish an efficient network in which unemployed workers can easily obtain counseling and advice.

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