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Japanese companies struggle to hire, retain staff in labour shortage

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By NP Newsroom

TOKYO:  Companies in Japan are struggling to hire and retain staff in one of the most serious shortages of workers in decades.

Increasingly unorthodox measures to alleviate the shortage include looking to housewives and retired people to rejoin the labour force. In some cases, it means offering better working conditions for some staff, even if this requires raising prices. In others, companies are reducing the services they offer.

Japan’s unemployment rate stood at a 23-year low of 2.8 percent in August, reflecting a strengthening economy and shrinking working-age population in a rapidly ageing society.

The labour squeeze can reduce the speed of economic development and even curb some economic activity, hurting Japan’s chances for sustainable growth. For example, at Sun Mall in Chiba, east of Tokyo, labor shortages have led some tenants to abandon plans to take up space at the site, and others to pack up when key workers could not be replaced.

More than half of housewives with children would like to work but are not able to find a suitable job, a survey of more than 4,000 married mothers by the Jobs Research Centre found, who are concerned about long work days that don’t fit their responsibilities at home.

Many companies remain hesitant to spend their record cash piles on raising wages, in part because they are unable to pass on costs to their customers who are accustomed to nearly two decades of mostly falling prices.

“If there were jobs that met their needs in terms of things like distance from home, job type and working hours there are lots of employable people,” a Human Resource company official is reported to have said.

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