Japan Earthquake Project: Disseminating Lessons from Employment and Labour Measures for the Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake

The Japan Earthquake Project aims to collect and compile lessons and good practices from the recovery efforts in Japan and to share them with a wide circle of the international community. It is hoped that the final outputs of the Project will better inform future natural disaster recovery efforts and policies including the post-Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) in Asia and the Pacific and beyond.

The Great East Japan Earthquake measuring magnitude 9.0 hit the northeast Japan on 11 March 2011. The earthquake and subsequent tsunamis left 15,861 deaths and 2,939 people missing as of 13 June 2012. More than one year has passed since the 3.11 Earthquake, yet the employment and labour issues remain one of the most challenging recovery issues among the disaster-affected people. From March 2011 and January 2012, about 220,000 applicants have filed for the unemployment scheme. The number of people, especially of the young, leaving the disaster-affected prefectures i.e. Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima has increased significantly since, jeopardising a self-reliant recovery process and threatening the disaster-affected communities to dissolve.

Since the immediate aftermath of the disaster, a number of employment and labour measures have been carried out both by the public and private sector actors. In April 2011, the Government of Japan launched a job-creation scheme under its “Japan as One” Work Project, which was followed by a number of other efforts to protect existing jobs, create new jobs through public works and flexible apply existing social protection schemes to disaster-affected people. The private sector actors have extended their support in the disaster-affected areas through a wide range of efforts as well. The experience from Japan since March 2011 demonstrates how crucial employment is in the post-disaster recovery process. The post 3.11 Earthquake recovery process thus offers an opportunity to collect and document practical examples of employment- and labour-related efforts in the natural disaster recovery context.

Indeed, a large number of institutions as well as a few international organisations have been gathering examples of recovery efforts in Japan. However, there are a few crucial gaps in the effort. Firstly, most information is available only in Japanese, which makes wide dissemination difficult. Secondly, the issue of livelihood and employment is one of the least researched areas even by international actors. The third gap is related to thematic focuses and methodology. There is no systematic gender analysis on the employment issues. Similarly, few studies have been done with a focus the elder and disabilities despite the fact that these groups were disproportionally affected by the disaster. Efforts by the private sector actors deserve comprehensive research due to their unconventional and innovative recovery approaches to recovery.

Project objectives

This Japan Earthquake Project aims to collect and compile lessons and good practices from the recovery efforts in Japan and to share them with a wide circle of the international community. It is hoped that the final outputs of the Project will better inform future natural disaster recovery efforts and policies including the post-Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) in the Asia and Pacific region and beyond.

The overall objective of the Project is to enhance the knowledge on employment and labour related measures in the context of disaster recovery. In order to do so, the Project will collect good practices and lessons learnt from past and ongoing recovery efforts in Japan and disseminate research findings to an international audience in the Asia and Pacific region and beyond.

The target group of the project include the constituents in the Asia and Pacific countries and beyond who are responsible for planning and implementing disaster recovery policies resilient to natural disasters. By making research findings widely available, the Project is aimed to benefit people living in disaster-prone countries, who are its ultimate beneficiaries.

Project activities

The Project consists of two main activities, i.e., a) conducting research and knowledge development and b) disseminating research findings.

Research and Knowledge Development

  1. Desk research

    Desk research will be conducted to have a systematic overview of the recovery measures and to identify challenges faced in the recovery process, gap areas for further research. A literature review on past and ongoing recovery efforts will be conducted by looking at primary documents from the Ministry of Labour, Health and Welfare and other respective government office as well as the secondary documents including existing research by other institutions. (September 2013 – August 2013)
  2. Participatory research

    The desk review will be complemented by participatory research activities. Methods include a) semi-structured interviews with stakeholders (e.g. central government officials, employment and labour officials at the prefectural and municipality levels, civil society actors in Tokyo and disaster-affected communities) and b) participatory workshops with disaster-affected community members, grouped by age and gender, in case study communities. (May – August 2013)
  3. Knowledge development

    Research findings will be compiled into three knowledge products:
    - An inventory of employment and labour policy measures;
    - An inventory of good practices (target user: national government officials responsible for recovery policy formulation); and
    - A practical guideline on employment and labour policy measures

    In doing so, draft products will be presented as a number of internal and technical workshops and conferences for a peer review, and modified subsequently prior to the final completion. (September – November 2013)

Dissemination of research findings

  1. Study tours in disaster-affected areas in Tohoku, Japan

    To enhance capacities of recovery experts on employment-related matters, the Project will organise study tours for recovery experts from disaster-prone countries in the Asia and Pacific region. The purpose of the study tours is to:

    - Disseminate tentative and final research findings to and gather feedback from the recovery experts;
    - Provide opportunities for the recovery experts to share good practices and challenges in recovery processes directly with Japanese counterparts and community members; and
    - Help the recovery experts identify challenges and potential policy options in their respective countries.

    The study tour consists of meetings with central government officials in Tokyo, field trips in disaster-affected communities in Tohoku, and a one day workshop to present findings from the tours in Sendai (or Morioka). (March 2013, February 2014)
  2. Dissemination activities

    Research findings will be disseminated through a number of workshops and conferences, the publication of knowledge products and the participation in various recovery-related conferences organised by other institutions. The following is a tentative list of workshops and conferences at which the Project’s research findings will be presented:

For further information please contact:

Ms Shukuko Koyama
Chief Technical Advisor
Tel.: +66 2 288 1788
Fax: +66 2 288 1076

Mr Panupol Phrommanukul
Administrative Assistant
Tel.: +66 2 288 2107
Fax: +66 2 288 3063