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英語:“’Moving refugees’ increase with spring personnel shuffles, industry labor shortages”

The period just before the start of the academic and fiscal year in April is prime moving season in Japan, but with labor shortages and work-style reforms, moving companies are taking less requests and fees are sky rocketing, creating more “moving refugees” unable to relocate to a new place on time.

Last month, Junko Kameyama, 29, of Kawasaki’s Miyamae Ward in Kanagawa Prefecture inquired with several moving companies online on the estimated cost of moving her family of four to her parents’ home within the prefecture at the beginning of April. Her elder sister had made a move under roughly the same circumstances two years ago for about 80,000 yen. However, she was surprised to find that “many operators requested the moving dates be changed, and in some cases they charged as much as 400,000 yen.”

In the end, Kameyama contracted with the moving company with the lowest offer — 93,000 yen — but lamented, “There must be people who have no choice but to accept the high prices.”

From the beginning of March, claims related to moving fees have been flooding into the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, such as “the estimated cost was 1.5 million yen” and “I was billed 200,000 yen for a single person moving within the city.” According to one employee at a major moving company, “Because we have to give priority to corporate contracts to assist personnel transfers, we don’t have room to make contracts with individual customers.”

At mid-sized moving company Apple Inc. based in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward, even now there is no end to the calls from customers requesting services during this bottleneck moving period. However, because of improved labor conditions in the delivery service industry, the company lost 10 percent of its some 70 drivers to career changes in the past year alone. The company has been left with no choice but to reduce the number of jobs it takes.

“Last year, we only refused a dozen or so cases, but this year, that number has already exceeded 100 moves,” a representative explained.

As labor shortages become a reality across multiple industries, the moving sector has taken a particularly hard hit as the requirement of hard labor, such as moving heavy items like furniture and home appliances, has job-seekers avoiding it.

Last year, the Osaka-based major moving company Art Corp. decreased the amount of orders it took by 20 percent compared to the previous year, citing “work-style reform.” While the company has slightly increased the amount of contracts this year, it will not reach the number taken two years ago before the changes were made.

The entire industry is stuck in a rut of not being able to meet consumer demand for services, and the Japan Trucking Association is calling for users to avoid the congested spring season.

Companies that have shifted the time period for personnel transfers have also begun appearing. Since 2016, Tokyo-based national wedding venue operator Escrit has kept the appointment of personnel changes on the traditional date of April 1, but in order to avoid the busy period, has allowed its employees to shift their actual moving period around two weeks earlier or later than the official appointment date. If the employee has no choice but to stay in a hotel until they can move into their new residence, the company will shoulder the fees, but a representative said that the company has managed to hold down the cost of moving its workers about by half.

“If the current approximately two-week period of maximum moving congestion was expanded even to roughly one month, the conditions would improve significantly,” said Yuji Yano, a professor of logistics theory at Ryutsu Keizai University. “Both companies and individuals should cooperate and aim to spread the demand period.”

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日本語:“引っ越し難民 深刻 見積もり150万円、受注お断り100件超”

 新年度を前に、希望日に引っ越しできない「引っ越し難民」問題が深刻化している。人手不足や働き方改革で、引っ越し業者が受注を減らす傾向にあるためだ。料金も高額化しており、引っ越し時期の分散化を求める声が強まっている。【竹地広憲、今村茜】

 川崎市宮前区の主婦、亀山順子さん(29)は先月、神奈川県内の実家に4月上旬に一家4人で引っ越すため、インターネットで複数の業者に見積もりを依頼した。目安は2年前、同じような条件で姉が引っ越した時の8万円。だが「多くの業者から日程の変更を求められ、約40万円を提示されるケースもあった」と驚く。結局、9万3000円を提示した最安業者と契約したが「高額の料金を受け入れざるを得ない人もいるはずだ」と話す。

 「見積もりで150万円を示された」「市内の単身の引っ越しで20万円を請求された」--。国民生活センターには今月に入り、引っ越し料金を巡る相談が相次いでいる。大手業者によると「従業員の転勤に合わせた法人契約を優先させるため、個人客と契約する余裕はない」状況だ。

 引っ越し中堅のアップル(東京都中央区)には、今も繁忙期の引っ越しを希望する客の問い合わせが絶えない。待遇改善が進む宅配業界に転職するため、約70人いた運転手の1割がこの1年で流出した。このため受注を抑えざるを得ず、「昨年断ったのは十数件だったが、今年は100件を超えた」(同社)という。

 人手不足が多くの業種で顕在化するなか、引っ越し業界は家具や家電などの重い荷物を運ぶ重労働のため敬遠されがちだ。業界大手のアートコーポレーション(大阪市)は昨年、「働き方改革」のため前年より受注を2割減らした。今年はやや増やしたが、一昨年の水準には及ばない。業界全体でも需要に供給が追いつかない状況は続き、全日本トラック協会は繁忙期を避けるよう、利用者に呼びかけている。

 社員の引っ越し時期をずらした企業もある。全国で結婚式場を運営するエスクリ(東京都)は2016年から、社員が繁忙期の引っ越しを避けられるよう、異動の辞令は4月1日のまま、引っ越し時期を前後2週間程度ずらすことを認めた。ホテルに滞在する必要がある場合の費用は会社が負担するが、担当者は「引っ越し費用は半分ほどに抑えられた」と話す。

 流通経済大の矢野裕児教授(物流論)は「現在2週間程度の最繁忙期の引っ越しを、1カ月程度にならすだけで、状況は相当改善される。企業も個人も協力して分散化を目指すべきだ」と話す。

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