Greater Support Needed in Pandemic for ‘Employment Ice Age’ Generation

The so-called employment ice age generation, many of whom work as nonregular employees, has been facing hardship due to the coronavirus crisis. Further efforts are essential to increase stable employment opportunities for them.

In light of the spread of the coronavirus, the government intends to strengthen its support for this generation. It will bring forward its initial plan to promote online job counseling and training sessions, among other measures, which will be provided by local governments. It is hoped that the central government will take effective measures for that purpose.

Based on an action plan formulated in 2019, the central government plans to provide more than ¥65 billion in assistance over the three years from fiscal 2020. With the aim of increasing the number of regular employees by 300,000, it will provide subsidies to companies, support vocational training sessions and boost midcareer recruitment for central and local government employees, among other steps.

The employment ice age generation graduated from school from around 1993 to about 2004 when companies were reducing the number of new graduates they hired due to the bursting of the bubble economy. They are now aged from their mid-30s to around 50. Many of them are nonregular employees. The government considers that about 1 million people will be eligible for its support.

For society as a whole, it is significant for a generation of people in the prime of life to find stable jobs as they wish.

When the action plan was formulated, employment conditions were favorable due to serious labor shortages at small and midsize companies. But the coronavirus crisis has completely changed the situation. It is impossible to achieve the goal unless the government racks its brains.

The Kumamoto prefectural government has launched a job-hunting support program so that those who wish to find jobs can learn bookkeeping and information technology skills online, and experience video editing and data collection. The aim is to balance the prevention of infections with development of their professional ability.

The Saitama prefectural government provides companies and job seekers with prior training sessions at joint briefing sessions attended by dozens of companies. Experts advise companies on how to create an environment to prevent people from leaving their jobs, while job seekers are instructed on how to handle interviews.

Even after the training sessions are over, the prefectural government provides job information to those seeking work and offers individual consultations. Since fiscal 2019, it has created about 80 regular employee jobs.

Behind the slow pace of regular employment among the employment ice age generation is the fact that they are often seen as lacking skills unless they have experience as regular employees. It is necessary for job seekers to make efforts to improve their skills, while companies need to appropriately appreciate their efforts.

It is also important to encourage people who have been unemployed or have withdrawn to participate in society. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s about 180 regional youth support stations provide communication courses and workplace experience opportunities.

In the coronavirus pandemic, the employment environment surrounding new graduates is also worrisome. If employment is unstable, it will be difficult for people to get married and have a family, which would contribute to the declining birthrate. It is hoped that the public and private sectors will cooperate on measures to prevent another employment ice age.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 13, 2021.