Bitter Legacy As Japanese Firms Lay Off Thousands
Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE
"Bitter legacy as Japanese firms lay off thousands"
The Times, March 4, 2002
"Japan's Unemployment Rate Declines"
Washington Post, March 1, 2002
Isn't it wonderful to see the drop in the unemployment rate, even by a small margin of 0.2%, from 5.5% in December to 5.3% in January? Of course it is. But then why people aren't celebrating?
For one thing, people are skeptical of the figure, not that the authorities formulating the numbers are cheating or such, but for ordinary folks it just doesn't sound right as it does not reflect the feelings obtained through their daily lives. And even the professionals are citing the number only with careful reservations. Mr. Takenaka, Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy has remarked that "there may be statistical technicalities involved (to see the seemingly improved figure)", and Mr. Sakaguchi, Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, have stressed the actual number of jobless people has increased. Chief Cabinet Secretary Mr. Fukuda summarized the cabinet's position by saying that "It (lower unemployment rate) is not a bad story, but we are not optimistic."
The article introduced above goes one step further and introduces Mr. Aida, who used to work for an engineering company and lost his job when the company went under. It is an interesting reading based on a fairly thorough research by a knowledgeable and respected reporter. But the article gets carried away in sympathy for the leading character and ends up merely sharing his frustration and confusion, not offering any insight as to where the real issue lies. His unfortunate state could have simply been a case of incompetent management making wrong business decisions, being unable to assess the capabilities of its workers, turning a blind eye to the trend of structural change of the industry, or could not keep up with the competition. And the article provides no hint as to who is to blame, and for what, on the alleged change of work ethic among Japanese people. Whatever the cause of Mr. Aida's hatred of the society, it would have been a productive story if it could relate it to the people struggling in earnest to cope with the depressed economy.