21 March 2018

Shingo Nagamatsu

Crisis management: Role of emergency job creation programs for disaster relief

Shingo Nagamatsu

Professor, Faculty of Societal Safety Sciences

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan led to an economic downturn with between 140,000-200,000 people losing jobs and 400,000 houses being partially destroyed and industries suffering a heavy blow. Cash for work programs (CFW), where cash is payed to workers for recovery, is a social safety net set up by governments during such times.

In the case of the 2011 disaster in Japan, CFWs covered only 11% of the relief funds, with donations and insurance covering the rest. This led to the introduction of the Emergency Job Creation program (EJC), with the aim of reducing unemployment. The program created jobs ranging from community service to clerical work.

Shingo Nagamatsu at Kansai University, Osaka, Japan, recently reported on his analysis of the effectiveness of the EJC program. Nagamatsu chose four projects, employing 938 participants for the study. The EJC's selection pattern, based on differences between the participants and total number of applicants, was then determined. Ideally such a program should be self-targeting: inevitable selection of participants who will fulfil the aim of the program.

Nagamatsu's research showed that the participant pool had more women, more previously unemployed individuals and less tertiary degree holders, than the total applicant pool. The wages provided, although above minimum wage, were less than the average. This indicated that the program was directed at employing individuals who chose to work for less money, such as women without higher education degrees or housewives. Furthermore, 80% of participants did not have any dependants, indicating wages were too low to support families.

The study concluded that the program was effective in its aim of reducing unemployment by targeting people who would find it hardest to find jobs. However, by default, the program also filtered out applicants in need of higher incomes. Nagamatsu suggests that, "The EJC program should include a different type of work, where the salary is as high as the market average, but involves greater responsibilities and scope of work." If such conditions were fulfilled, unemployment may be reduced after natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Photo: A disaster affected victim who works as a community support staff for temporary house dwellers in Tagajo city (as of September 2013).


S. Nagamatsu. "Targeting vulnerable people with a Social Safety Net: Lessons from the CFW program for the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster." Journal of Disaster Research, published online (26th July, 2016); DOI: 10.20965/jdr.2016.p0926.