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The establishment of a tent village in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park during the New Year’s holidays to help unemployed temporary workers is a sobering reflection of these hard times. In the tent village, nonprofit organization and labor union activists gave advice on a variety of matters ranging from finding employment and housing to health problems. Similar tent villages have also been established in other parts of the country, including Osaka, Aichi and Saitama prefectures.

Unemployed temporary workers have found these tent villages extremely helpful because they provide easy access to essential advice and information. When necessary, activists have even taken temporary workers to administrative offices to help them apply for social security benefits. The very fact that these temporary tent villages were created demonstrates a compelling need for the central and local governments to provide such services on a regular basis.

The government has already had the Diet revise the employment insurance law to extend unemployment insurance coverage to temporary workers who can prove that they will be employed for six months or more. Such workers will now be able to receive unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs after six months of employment, rather than the previously required one-year period.

An additional 1.5 million workers are expected to be insured under this change, but it is feared that some 8.5 million workers will remain uninsured. To help uninsured workers who have lost their jobs, the government will also provide a ¥100,000 to ¥120,000 monthly benefit to those who undergo vocational training. For those who have become unemployed and homeless, housing allowances will also be provided for up to six months.

There may still be cases in which the unemployed cannot claim benefits they are entitled to even if they visit various administrative offices. For example, some local governments refused applications for public livelihood assistance on the grounds that the applicants were under the age of 66 or were unable to provide a legitimate place of residence. The government sector should strongly consider establishing sections that can provide such people with comprehensive advice. In these harsh economic times, it is imperative to ensure that the nation’s social safety nets are fully functional.

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