The COVID-19 pandemic sparked one of the sharpest contractions in economic activity in living memory. A swifter than expected recovery followed, but the crisis exposed a number of flaws in the current labour market and skills systems in many, if not all, countries. The extent to which workers can adapt to changes in the type and content of jobs depends critically on the readiness and flexibility of adult learning systems to help people develop and maintain relevant skills over their working careers.

Digitalisation of key public services, such as employment support, career guidance and training, as well as adoption of teleworking practices, have altered the way in which adults navigate the labour market and have the potential to help address challenges brought about by economic disruptions and rapidly changing skills needs. Such services are particularly important in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many adults are faced with new ways of working and learning.

This report reviews Japan’s employment policy response during and immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic, and provides policy recommendations to improve the responsiveness of the adult learning system to changing skills needs, by strengthening training provision, broadening access to career guidance and fostering teleworking. Chapter 1 reviews recent labour market developments in Japan, and discusses how the skill composition of the Japanese workforce changed during the pandemic. Chapter 2 discusses employment policy responses to the pandemic, including employment and training subsidies, teleworking and career guidance. Chapter 3 focuses on persistent inequalities in skills and training, and offers suggestions on how Japan can create more responsive training policies through the use of well-integrated labour market information systems.

This report was prepared by Michele Tuccio, Nozomi Ohno and Dzana Topalovic from the Skills and Employability Division of the Directorate for Employment Labour and Social Affairs (ELS). The work was carried out under the supervision of Glenda Quintini (Manager of the Skills Team) and Mark Keese (Head of the Skills and Employability Division). The report benefitted also from the useful feedback of Mark Pearson (Deputy Director of ELS). The OECD Secretariat would like to thank the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, and the Panel Data Research Center at Keio University for their support in carrying out this project.

This report is published under the responsibility of the Secretary General of the OECD, with the financial assistance of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The views expressed in this report should not be taken to reflect the official position of OECD member countries.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at