Sunday, March 20, 2011

TEPCO (and JSDF) Employees Not the Only Heroes at Fukushima 1; Plus Sidebar to Minami-Sanriku Tragedy

TEPCO has been catching most of the flak for allegedly mishandling the response to the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant but its 50 or so employees who have been putting their lives at risk to contain the danger there have been rightly hailed as heroes. Now the Sunday papers remind us that they are not the only ones. According to this Yomiuri report, of the 160-man team who have been braving high-level radiation to connect the four at-risk generators to the grid in an attempt to revive their cooling systems, 50 have been dispatched by a kyōryoku kigyō, or “associate company.” If “associate company” sounds suspiciously like the “associates” in America—as far as I’m aware, business-speak to make employees feel more valued without having to pay them accordingly—you’re right. They’re the shitauke kigyō, or the subcontractors of old, who typically carried out the more kitsui, kitanai, and kiken—“Dirty, Dangerous and Demanding”—work at lower pay and with less job security. The report is not even clear whether all the operators dispatched by the associate company are its regular employees. There are several directions in which I could take this story—it’s actually of professional interest to me because the regular/irregular employee distinction is the most important part of the labor reform debate—but I have to break off for now.

Another Yomiuri report says that Minami-Sanrikuchō, the township where 8,000 out of 17,000 inhabitants remain unaccounted for one week into the crisis, appears to have had its entire family registry database wiped out by the tsunami. The backup files at the sub-regional offices of the Ministry of Justice were also lost in the deluge. So how are the survivors going to open bank accounts, obtain passports, and do all those other things that require a copy from the family registry? It’s a very small story within the national tragedy, and legacy systems yadyada but I can’t really find any excuse for a national system that’s still being siloed locally when storage is dirt-cheap and getting cheaper and e-government is now taking a hard look at cloud computing.


TKYCraig said...

Re: Miniami Sanrikucho and the family registry...
I was wondering about this post-tsunami and if there were back-up docs. If the back-ups are also gone, then there is a real issue for those people. Apart from family registers, has the land titles also been destroyed? So many implications!

Must be time for a review of the old registry system -perhaps digital is the answer.

Jun Okumura said...


The registry records are digitalized, as images where necessary—some of those records go way back. We can survive the loss of those records, in the same way that we survived the losses in the Great Kanto Earthquake and WW II, when there were no digital repositories. Still, it’s incredible that records were not stored in triplicate in nationwide repositories. And yes, I hadn’t thought of the real estate titles, but there’s that, of course. We need to disaster-proof the information backbone of contemporary society. Political intervention would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

I was wonderingCheap wow gold about it post-tsunami and when there are back-up written documents. If your back-ups are removed, then there's a true problem for those people. Other than loved ones signs up, has Buy rs goldthe property brands also been damaged?