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SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Overburdened staff rebuilding Tohoku face even grimmer times

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun:

Half of the local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima--the three hardest-hit prefectures in the March 11, 2011, disaster--expressed concerns about the physical and mental health of their employees.

“Although projects to rebuild are proceeding, the burden of each civil servant is increasing” due to a shortage of staff, said a local official, echoing the desperation shared by many others.

Questionnaires were sent to the 42 cities, towns and villages in coastal areas of the three prefectures between January and February. The municipalities included those ordered to evacuate following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

According to the study, the number of backup employees was 1,358 in fiscal 2012, 1,353 in fiscal 2017 and will be 1,072 in fiscal 2018.

The article continues:

According to the ministry, the number of backup employees dispatched under its initiative in fiscal 2017 was 1,330, a year-on-year drop of 12 percent.

As of January, the number was 210 fewer than what the disaster-hit municipalities said they needed.

The study also showed that overtime work was increasing in 19 municipalities.

Eight of the 19 municipalities said their busiest workers were clocking 100 to 150 hours a month, beyond the central government’s 100-hour-a-month threshold for acknowledging the risks of “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

Five local governments cited 150 to 200 hours a month.

Nakayuki Fujiwara, a 43-year-old official at the Minami-Soma city government in Fukushima Prefecture, said he works more than four hours of overtime almost every day.

Parts of Minami-Soma are located within the 20-kilometer zone of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Fujiwara oversees dozens of central government-subsidized rebuilding projects, such as construction of a certified nursery school and agricultural facility within the 20-km zone.