The government has started a job-seeker support system from the beginning of October, under which unemployed people can receive allowances while undergoing vocational training. The new system will serve as the second safety net for workers, besides unemployment insurance. So far, if the period of unemployment insurance coverage were over or for unemployed people not covered by the insurance, the only recourse was receiving livelihood assistance or becoming on welfare.

Now irregular workers make up more than one third of the nation’s work force. About a half of job seekers newly registered with public employment security offices (PESOs) are not covered by unemployment insurance. One third of the unemployed have been without jobs for more than one year. The number of people receiving livelihood assistance has topped 2 million and the total amount of such assistance surpassed ¥3 trillion in fiscal 2009. Under this situation, it is hoped that the new job-seeker support system stabilize the lives of irregular or unemployed workers and help them find permanent jobs.

Under the new system, a job seeker receives a monthly allowance of ¥100,000 and traffic expenses, and undergoes vocational training in such fields as nursing-care services and information technology-related work for three to six months. A PESO employee works out a support program for each such job seeker. The job seeker must regularly go to the office for interviews to report development of their vocational training.

The new system is an upgraded permanent version of an emergency human resources development support program that lasted for two years from July 2009 in the wake of the Lehman Brothers shock. Under the earlier system, slightly less than 170,000 people underwent vocational training in 2010 and about 70 percent of them found jobs.

Some people failed to undergo vocational training but got allowances. The levels of some vocational training schools were found to be below the standard. PESOs have the power to stop providing allowances to job seekers who do not diligently undertake vocational training. It is important to increase the number of PESO workers who can give adequate advice to vocational trainees. Local governments and enterprises should also work out vocational training programs reflecting local economic conditions and provide matching services for job seekers and local enterprises.

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