Japan's Latest Economic Booster: New Jobs, More Mergers

Leaf-raking jobs, or their equivalent, are the Japanese government's latest attempt to jump start the economy. A $4.2 billion (500 billion yen) emergency package aimed at creating more than 700,000 jobs is to be pushed through Japan's parliament by the end of July. The move comes as Japan's unemployment rate, now 4.4%, reaches a record high. Officially, 1.15 million people are said to be involuntarily unemployed. But this figure is conservative -- as an individual is judged to be employed if he or she has worked even one day in a month. Under the package the central and local governments will be required to create 300,000 jobs by contracting public services to the private sector. The plan also aims to increase government subsidies to companies that hire middle-aged workers forced out of their jobs by corporate restructuring. Although the plan targets job creation in so-called new industries, such as health and welfare, information, telecommunications, tourism, and housing, there is doubt how effective it will be. Japan's government merely states that it plans to create new jobs in particular sectors; it does not detail how. Other provisions of the plan include new laws to allow stock swaps on buyouts -- this aims to increase the number of mergers and acquisitions and to ease current restrictions on creating holding companies. And revisions to Japan's bankruptcy laws are designed to allow corporate borrowers to repay debts by issuing new shares to creditors.

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