FUKUSHIMA--Almost a third of working-age residents in the vicinity of the embattled Fukushima nuclear plant are jobless and surviving on compensation or pensions six and a half years after the disaster, a survey has found.

The survey, by Fukushima University’s Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, found the unemployment rate is 31.9 percent among those ages 15-64 in seven of the eight municipalities in Futaba county, which surrounds the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, including host towns Okuma and Futaba.

The jobless rate is three times that of the pre-disaster level. The ratio of regular employees was found to be 41.3 percent, down from 61.8 percent before the disaster.

Fuminori Tanba, associate professor of social welfare and rebuilding at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, who led the survey team, underlined the importance of local government assistance in helping the victims find work.

“The victims’ self-help or the payouts of compensation alone are not sufficient in empowering them to rebuild their lives,” Tanba said. “Administrative support aimed at helping them find jobs will be needed.”

The recent survey, released on Sept. 6, was a follow-up to the first of its kind, conducted in autumn 2011. Most of the residents in the county were forced to evacuate when the nuclear crisis unfolded in March that year.

The center sent the questionnaire by mail to the 26,582 households in the seven municipalities between February and March, with an eighth, the town of Hirono, opting not to participate.

The center received responses from 37.9 percent of survey recipients.

Asked how they make ends meet, compensation for the nuclear accident was cited the most frequently, by 56.4 percent of respondents, followed by national pensions, totaling 50.7 percent. Only 32.7 percent said their main source of income was work. Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer to the question.

The results suggested that the victims had to rely on compensation, national pensions or savings to get by, as they faced difficulties in resuming farming and other businesses they formerly were engaged in before the Fukushima disaster.

According to the survey, only 16.1 percent are either “hopeful” or “greatly hopeful” about their future, while 50.4 percent feel either “hopeless” or “completely hopeless.”