As COVID-19 compounds Okinawa's tourism woes, industry looks for a way out

Japan Times -- Jan 29
With February’s termination of government employment subsidies, which also partially support furlough allowances, Okinawa Prefecture is expected to face a “March Crisis” — a situation in which tourism industry workers face substantial layoffs.

“Okinawan tourism will definitely recover in two or three years. It is hard to find a reason against it,” said Kenji Sugimoto, president of JTB Okinawa Corp.

However, if many lose their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19, the local industry will face labor shortages when the economy recovers. Sugimoto is therefore proposing an emergency system through which workers are temporarily seconded to companies so that they can return to their jobs once the economy is back on its feet.

The prefecture and the Cabinet Office’s Okinawa General Bureau have devised a support system that transfers workers at companies facing hardships to firms with more financial leeway. But so far the new system has matched only four cases with 11 workers. The system remains unpopular, as users are excluded from the employment subsidies.

JTB Okinawa also seconded its workers for a month in 2020. Despite the need for regular check-ins and support, Sugimoto is certain that the experience will benefit workers as well as firms. In order to protect the employment of major industries, he is calling for the entire economy to adopt a transfer system. - Japan Times