February 5th, 2009
01:41 AM GMT
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TOKYO, Japan — At the Toyota City job center, today's supervisor, Mr. Kawajiri, is in a mild panic. The number of people who need a job has doubled in just months, and their numbers seem to grow with each passing day. It's hard to keep up, he says, and it's often overwhelming.

The Toyota City area, home to Toyota Motor Corporation, is now also home to Japan's highest density of unemployed workers. This is something Toyota City has never seen before.

This one-industry town has ridden high with Toyota Motor Corporation for decades, exploding in size and wealth. Workers enjoyed lifetime employment with enough cash to care for their entire families.

Town coffers filled with each profit earnings report from the ambitious automaker. That was all before the global economic downturn.

Today, for the first time in the world's biggest automaker's history, all of its Japanese assembly lines sit idle.

The seven Toyota City factories are silent, a deafening sound in this city of 400,000 residents.

Workers who pride themselves on the Toyota philosophy of "kaizen," which means constant improvement, are improving nothing today. They're sitting at home or passing the time in Toyota City's main shopping district.

But no one wants to spend any money, because they're not sure when or if they'll be showing up in Mr. Kawajiri's job center.

"I don't want to complain, but it's hard," says Kawajiri. "I take it day by day, person by person, and try not to think of all the people who are unemployed right now. If I do, it's more than I can handle."

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soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. M. Hutchinson

    It's not just that area. I teach English at a factory (located in the next prefecture) that provides parts for Toyota and they are closing down the place a few days a month with cuts in pay for the workers as well. It's a scary time for the whole country and this is just the beginning!

    February 5, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  2. Alan W. Keyes (not the politician)

    Comment relating to the Auto Bailout:
    Offer the auto companies an incentive program that rewards the purchaser and the dealership who sells the vehicle and in turn, compliments the auto industry. Example: A $5,000 incentive coupon from the government available to the consumer to encourage sales of automobiles. The prospective buyer finds a dealership with the best price, say $22,000 for a $25,000 vehicle ($3,000 off). Then the consumer presents the incentive coupon for an additional $5,000 off, which lowers the price now to $17,000 (something he can better afford). When the vehicle is purchased, the dealership gets $17,000 from the consumer, then gets $5,000 from the government and the manufacturer sells another vehicle. Everybody wins!

    February 5, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  3. Lauro Silva - Brazil

    Apparently, Toyota´s difficult situation in the face of the global crisis is tied to two crucial problems, namely: 1- the currency in Japan, yen, is too much overvalued, what implies either reducing the currency´s value or reducing goods´prices. 2- cheaper and more popular vehicles have to be made. As a consequence from above, part of the very high immigrant workforce has to be returned home and the remaining one to accept lower salaries. Globalization now is more important than never before.

    February 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  4. Lindsey

    As the Auto Industry crumbles, not only in America, but globally, the potential for job loss is incredibly high. The unemployment crisis will not stop at factory workers and auto industry employees. The stock holders, marketing companies will also suffer. The trickle-down affect the demise of the auto industry creates is catastrophic. Even with Toyota recently dethroning General Motors for sales, the sales are still in the toilet. Hopefully, the economy will be begin to bounce back, and people will be able to afford new cars.

    February 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm |
  5. James

    When issuing the bailout funds for the institutions did anyone think these institutions were going to raise our interest rates on credit cards or did anyone take into consideration they were going to keep the money and not help the consumer?

    When will you realize that businesses only thrive because of consumer spending and when the consumer stops spending then the businesses of the country become the ideas that they were in the first place. (just an idea they will not exist)

    February 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm |
  6. Lindsey Ruffolo

    As the recession continues to deepen, the auto industry is getting a punch in the gut. Not only are hiring freezes happening around the world, the employment of second and third parties are feeling the squeeze. People who market the auto industry are also suffering, and the trickle down affect continues. Even with Toyota topping General Motors for the first time, it still amazes me how much they're suffering. Let's hope for a turn around soon!

    February 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  7. wendy

    the simplest solution to stimulate the economy. Give every american the house they live as their own. Whether it is an apartment or house. Sure the wealthy people who own theses properties will loose. sure the banks will suffer as they should. But no american will suffer with the security of a rood over their head. Instead they will have money to spend on cars and things that create jobs. This solution is so simple and so stimulating for americans and so deserved of americans that the thinkers of america will sit their in bewilderment and say wow...why didnt i think of that? Sure it will have it s problems but in comparison with the problems we face now its the simplest solution.

    February 5, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  8. wood

    Japan, Welcome to the club with the fellow Korean, Chinese and Indonesian workers.

    What is wrong? I thought that even without USA sales you should be able to make it own your own by trading amongst yourselves. Or is your entire market geared to US sales only! It seems like all of the fellow manufacturers have been dumping vehicles on the USA market to float all their other operations. When the US market is not there; your markets collapse !

    Perhaps it is time you stopped dumping your products on our American shores; we may chose to buy American now and limit the purchases of big ticket items as we aren't sure if we will be getting back to work either. Besides now we want a vehicle that gets 30-40MPG not the 20-30 MPG gas guzzlers you have been sending us. We are on the new Energy diet.

    February 9, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  9. Muthyavan

    It is a great surprise and threatening to read what is happening to one of the world greatest auto maker by this world sudden economic dawn turn. Exactly no body in the past had ever predicted before there will be a crash dawn in the world industry, how bad it is going to be, and how long will take to start industries moving at normal activities again. This is not a problem faced by Toyota, it is now world over echoing in every part of the world economy first time very badly after the world economy got integrated slowly into one unit after many years. Toyota was successful in building and producing best autos beating other auto makers to second place but its leaders have failed like other world industrial leaders for an emergency plan in facing a world economic dawn turn . All these indicate world is sliding slowly into a period of uncertainty and economic recovery may take a long time.

    February 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm |

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