TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: Revitalize Shotengai & CREATE JOBS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
"Good afternoon!" "Irasshaimase! Welcome!" Bright young voices resound inside the shops of the Momodani Station shotengai or shopping street, about 15 minutes by train from Osaka's downtown. The young people selling recycled clothing and other things in some of the shops here are energetic and enthusiastic. Most of them in their 20s, have either never had a job or have never been employed in a full-time position. Now they have brought a fresh breath of life to this commercial district of small independent retailers that was teetering on the edge of decline.
The young people were hired for the Creating Businesses & Jobs In Empty Storefronts program that started up this past spring as part of publicly funded efforts in Osaka to stimulate local employment. They now staff a recycled clothing shop, a massage studio and several other businesses in empty storefronts in this declining commercial district.
The most important objective of the program is to provide jobs for young people. The problem of unemployment among youth that is shared by most advanced nations has certainly affected Japan as well, with unemployment among 25-29 year olds reaching 7.1% in 2010. The average for the whole generation is 5.1% with unemployment of 9.8% among 15-19 year olds and 9.1% among 20-24 year olds.
The other problem that is now being seen even in the urban areas of Osaka is the shuttered store syndrome that has affected so many shotengai shopping streets and commercial districts in smaller cities and towns, due to the advance of big box stores and shopping malls as well as the lack of successors to take over small independent shops. The Momodani program is commanding the attention of local municipal organizations as it attempts to kill two birds with one stone, solving both problems at once.
The shops opened in June or July after preparations got under way...