Group organizing tent village for unemployed to be disbanded

The group that set up a tent village for laid-off temporary workers in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park over the New Year holidays will disband at the end of this month, the chief of the group said Wednesday.

Makoto Yuasa said his group has decided to end its activities after helping to change peoples’ perceptions of the situation surrounding temporary workers but will continue to support the unemployed through consultation services.

“People began to recognize that the lack of social safety nets is an underlying problem behind the layoffs and firings of temporary workers,” Yuasa said of the significance of his group’s activities. “It had earlier been said that such workers themselves were responsible (for their situations).”

Yuasa, a social activist who has tackled poverty issues in Japan since the mid-1990s, served as “mayor” of the Hibiya tent village [known as Hakenmura] that drew attention as a social problem after an increasing number of business corporations cut jobs amid the deepening economic crisis.

His group’s members, who include members of labor unions [including the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu] and civic groups, were originally scheduled to disband early this year, but they have been providing follow-up employment and other support for the people who lived in emergency shelters in the tent village.

The village “shed light on the need to promote collaboration between people engaged in social welfare and labor rights movements,” Yuasa said.