Earthquake affirmative action in Japan

TOKYO -- The Toyota Group is pioneering a new form of affirmative action.

In picking this year's batch of new hires in Japan, several group companies will give preference to applicants who were victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Call it earthquake affirmative action.

Parts maker Denso Corp., a closely held member of the Toyota Group, plans to add 350 short-term workers in July and has set aside 50 jobs for disaster survivors.

Other Toyota Motor Corp. suppliers, including Toyota Industries Corp. and Toyota Boshoku, Corp., are doing the same, according to Japan's Nikkan Kogyo business daily.

And Toyota Auto Body, which assembles cars for Toyota Motor Corp., also will prioritize quake zone applicants for short-term and career path jobs, the paper says.

Meanwhile, Kanto Auto Works, another assembler, wants to fill 100 contract positions from Iwate prefecture, a region suffering some of the worst tsunami damage.

The extra consideration underscores how Japan is rallying to support disaster victims.

The country's transportation ministry recently announced that it is waiving highway tolls for earthquake victims throughout northeastern Japan to ease their financial burden.

And in perhaps the most unusual example, supermarkets sometimes actively publicize produce from Fukushima, where the damaged nuclear power plant has raised concern about radiation contamination of everything from vegetables to children's playgrounds.

The produce is deemed safe by the government. And some customers snap it up in an act of solidarity with Fukushima farmers who might otherwise see their products shunned.

It doesn't hurt that Fukushima vegetables are usually deeply discounted.

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