Over half a year has passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku region in Japan. While the emergency phase is over, rebuilding lives and communities remains a serious challenge. The unemployment rate is at its highest record and public unemployment benefits are starting to expire in mid October. Despite the recent announcement by the government to extend the benefits for 90 days, the main problem will not be solved unless jobs are created in this area.
To create job opportunities in areas hit by the earthquake, local municipalities are allowed to manage vocational training programs so graduates can start their own businesses, which could also benefit communities. Japan Workers’ Co-operative Union (JWCU) has been commissioned to manage such programs by four municipalities in Tohoku. The first program started on 3rd October. By the spring of 2012, there will be new worker cooperatives in Tohoku which have been created by graduates attempting to rebuild their own communities.
Since the reconstruction of the Head Office in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) on 15th July, JWCU, as a national federation of cooperatives, has been working hard to cooperate with people in the affected areas. Their members (mostly young members) visited local municipalities, local groups and NGOs to listen to cooperators’ needs and to discuss possibilities to collaborate with them in order to create jobs and rebuild communities. They also emphasized the unique feature of worker cooperatives that not only provide training but also work with trainees to create jobs after their graduation, rather than waiting for someone to employ them.
Each program integrates around 20 people who have lost their jobs due to the disaster. The scheme gives them the opportunity to gain the skills needed to start their own business. JWCU’s 6-month training program will emphasize how to create jobs, the current conditions and challenges in the community, community assessment, training to become homecare workers, business plan development and the final preparations in order to create a cooperative.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037