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Woes could linger for Japan's jobless

March 30, 2011

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Eric Bellman

The Wall Street Journal
March, 2011

Long lines have formed at the town hall of this coastal community as residents look for government aid and access to working phones while relief workers queue up for their orders. This week, a new line formed: people looking for jobs.

When an earthquake and tsunami rocked this region of Japan this month, it not only killed more than 11,000 and left more than 16,200 missing; it also left potentially hundreds of thousands of people jobless or unable to reach those workplaces that have even reopened.

..."For people's psychological needs, getting back to work is important," said Diane Johnson, global economics development coordinator for Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based aid group that has implemented work programs in the past and is in Japan this week. "Going to work and having work colleagues is part of everyday life. Being cut off from this is disturbing."

Mercy Corps has already decided against a temporary employment program in Japan. Wages and the aversion to doing difficult work in the dirt are too high here. Meanwhile, the massive scale of the cleanup means much of the work can only be done with heavy vehicles like backhoes and trucks.

Instead, Mercy Corps is trying to partner with local non-government organizations and banks to make sure small and medium size companies, which account for most jobs in small towns, are able to get loans they need to rebuild on their own....