Jobless Japanese Work the Land

$10M government program trains new agricultural force
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 15, 2009 11:45 AM CDT
A farmer harvesting grain in the Shirakawa region of Japan, circa 1955. Two-thirds of Japan's full-time farming population is over 65.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – As their country struggles with its worst recession since World War II, many Japanese city slickers stymied by the job market are trying out the farming life, the Wall Street Journal reports. Aiming to rejuvenate an industry in which two-thirds of full-time workers are 65 and older, the government has initiated a $10 million program to train 900 people in farming, forestry, and fishing.

“If they can't find young workers over the next several years, Japan's agriculture will disappear,” says a government economist. But “it’s a hard life,” notes one man who embarked on a training program after losing his factory job. One 9-person training group shared a single bathroom in an abandoned inn in freezing weather. And one established farmer complains trainees aren’t interested in the work: "These new applicants are coming because they have no other choice."