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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Life in Fukushima feels "hopeless" for many

September 11, 2017


Rent hike looms for 70% of 3/11 disaster victims in state-run housing





MORIOKA, IWATE PREF. – About 70 percent of those forced into government-run housing because of the Great East Japan Earthquake will face rent hikes in fiscal 2018 as the government moves to reduce financial support for those with low incomes.

The rent hikes are expected to affect some 16,000 households in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The municipal governments responsible for the state-run dwellings are demanding a review of the central government’s plan.

Monday marked 6½ years since the magnitude 9.0 quake spawned tsunami that wiped out parts of Tohoku’s coastline on the afternoon of March 11, 2011.

Under the government’s rent subsidy plan, the aid declines gradually starting from the sixth year in state-run housing and ceases altogether in the 11th year, though the amount of support varies depending on each person’s rent and income.

However, under special measures, people whose houses were destroyed are eligible for three years of public housing regardless of income. Many began moving into such housing in fiscal 2013.

For example, a disaster victim in Sendai whose only source of income is the state pension and who lives in a state-run dwelling with two rooms and a kitchen will pay ¥5,600 in rent every month until the fifth year. After the 11th year, when the financial support is withdrawn, the rent will be ¥18,200.

Beneficiaries of such dwellings include households whose monthly income is ¥80,000 or less, from which a certain amount is deducted for dependents residing there. According to the municipal governments, the number of such households totaled 3,321 in Iwate, 9,272 in Miyagi and 4,101 in Fukushima.

Some of them receive financial support from their municipalities and therefore will not be affected by the reduction in central government support.

One such person is Toshiji Sato, who lives alone in a state-run housing unit in Sendai.

Sato was a taxi driver but quit the industry after developing mental distress from the disasters. He now relies solely on his pension.

He stopped smoking and drinking in a bid to save money but now, after paying rent, medical and utility costs, has almost no money left over, he said.

In May, Sato and other displaced residents living in public housing launched a campaign calling for the suspension of the rent hike. About 2,000 signatures were collected.

“I want the country and the city to take a little more care of the disaster victims,” he said.


September 11, 2017



Survey: Jobless rate still triple pre-2011 level in Fukushima area






FUKUSHIMA--Almost a third of working-age residents in the vicinity of the embattled Fukushima nuclear plant are jobless and surviving on compensation or pensions six and a half years after the disaster, a survey has found.


The survey, by Fukushima University’s Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, found the unemployment rate is 31.9 percent among those ages 15-64 in seven of the eight municipalities in Futaba county, which surrounds the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, including host towns Okuma and Futaba.


The jobless rate is three times that of the pre-disaster level. The ratio of regular employees was found to be 41.3 percent, down from 61.8 percent before the disaster.


Fuminori Tanba, associate professor of social welfare and rebuilding at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, who led the survey team, underlined the importance of local government assistance in helping the victims find work.


“The victims’ self-help or the payouts of compensation alone are not sufficient in empowering them to rebuild their lives,” Tanba said. “Administrative support aimed at helping them find jobs will be needed.”


The recent survey, released on Sept. 6, was a follow-up to the first of its kind, conducted in autumn 2011. Most of the residents in the county were forced to evacuate when the nuclear crisis unfolded in March that year.


The center sent the questionnaire by mail to the 26,582 households in the seven municipalities between February and March, with an eighth, the town of Hirono, opting not to participate.


The center received responses from 37.9 percent of survey recipients.


Asked how they make ends meet, compensation for the nuclear accident was cited the most frequently, by 56.4 percent of respondents, followed by national pensions, totaling 50.7 percent. Only 32.7 percent said their main source of income was work. Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer to the question.


The results suggested that the victims had to rely on compensation, national pensions or savings to get by, as they faced difficulties in resuming farming and other businesses they formerly were engaged in before the Fukushima disaster.


According to the survey, only 16.1 percent are either “hopeful” or “greatly hopeful” about their future, while 50.4 percent feel either “hopeless” or “completely hopeless.”


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