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Vol. 13 The Journal of Social Policy and Labor Studies (Shakai-seisaku Gakkai shi)


HOME > PUBLICATIONS > Early Journals > The Journal of Social Policy and Labor Studies (Shakai-seisaku Gakkai shi) (1999-2007)

Prolonged transition from adolescence to adulthood and need for relevant social policies

             Michiko MIYAMOTO

In recent years, the transition process from adolescence to adulthood has become much longer than it was once assumed, and this prolonged process has created a new stage in life course. This new stage can be termed ‘post-adolescence’.

In life course studies, this transitional stage is traditionally known as the period when ‘the process of transition from adolescence to adulthood occurs’. The patterns of the transition differ according to the system and structure as well as customs and culture of society. While industries and economy grew steadily, the transition from childhood to adulthood was seen as one continuous change. Since the 1980’s however, not only has the period of transition become longer, but also its patterns have altered from ‘linear transition’ in which the changes were step-by-step, direct movement toward the goal, to ones that are more complex and ‘zigzagging’. Thus we saw the emergence of transition patterns that were individualised, diversified and changeable.

At the end of the 1970’s, it was recognised in the West that unemployment was an indication that adolescence itself was changing, and since than a number of policies have been set up to tackle the problems accordingly. Recent policies in EU countries can be seen as evidence of the responsibilities felt by governments. Nevertheless, a number of questions of what should be done and who is to take responsibility for the financial demands caused by the prolonged transition process still remain to be answered. Many of those who are concerned have expressed strong doubts for the call for extended parental responsibility. Youth unemployment in Japan did not occur until the late 1990’s due to the extreme shortage of a young workforce during the economic boom of the early 1990’s. Consequently, with a fall in the birth rate caused by people not marry until they were much older, the changes in the transition process were only felt in Japan now, 20 years after the phenomenon was first recognised in the West.

Some of the problems are common both to Japan and EU countries but some differ considerably. One of the most significant characteristics in Japan is the fact that financial responsibilities for young people are almost entirely borne by their family, whereas in the West, various benefits are available that are funded by governments or other relevant organisations. As more young people go on to higher education and heavier financial burden of education falls on their family, the awareness of the family being an economic unit has been significantly reinforced. The result of this social change manifests financial dependency and delayed independence, the parents’ sense of responsibility for finding employment for their children and their feeling of guilt when they fail. In such circumstances, the young people who are most at risk are similar types to those who become socially deprived in the UK. On the other hand, the financial problems of young people in Japan have been concealed by their prolonged dependency on parents, and the serious effect on young people was not recognised for a long time. Even now, it is far from easy to have a clear picture of where the families who are unable to support their grown up children exist, and to what extent. Consequently, whereas it is regarded as a social problem in the West, the Japanese tend to see the phenomenon as the ‘normal young people’ (i.e. not deprived in any way) becoming less capable. Thus the general public is more concerned with young people’s lack of aspiration and independence, and with their attitude to work. This could lead to a moral argument such as the need to tell them to ‘pull their socks up’, and the real argument of how the change in social structure has caused such strong dependency in young people could easily be ignored.

To conclude, I would like to suggest that there are a number of factors in Japanese society that have caused this generation of young people to have an unprecedented dependency on parents making them incapable of adapting to the fast changing society. These factors include the unique method of once-a-year block graduate recruitment, the traditional family system, a culture that values mutual dependency rather than independence and the system of higher education that presumes financial support by parents.



Changing Patterns in Youth Transition from School to Work in Japan: A Sociological Study of the Emergence of “Kousotsu-mugyousya”

  Hiroaki MIMIZUKA

During and after the 1990s, the patterns in youth transition from school to work experienced a drastic change that prolonged the Japanese youth period. However, it cannot be said that each pupil/ student experienced a prolonged period of youth in the same manner: some succeeded in gaining employment immediately after finishing their schooling, as it used to be before the 1990s, but others could not find employment and became “freeters”(young part-time workers) or “mugyousya” (NEET ; youth that are not employed and not receiving education or training). Before the 1990s almost all Japanese youths were easily able to find employment after school without any time-lag.

The fact that freeters or mugyousya emerged early in the 1990s and increased ever since implies a drastic change in the Japanese youth transition process from school to work.

This raises two issues for research: first, the reason why freeters or mugyousya have emerged and increased in number, and second, the type of youths that became “freeters” or “mugyousya”. This paper reviews recent sociological studies focused on “kousotsu –mugyousya” (freeters or NEETs graduating from high school), and provides answer to the two research questions. Emphasis is laid on the recent educational change that includes education policies, ideals and practices, and the educational selection/ allocation function of schools, as well as recent changes in the youth labor market.

The major findings of this paper are as follows:

1. We can delineate three factors with regard to the first issue: (a) a decline in the demand for high-school graduates and an increase in the demand for part-time labor (pull-factor), (b) introduction of youth-centric ideals in educational practices (especially in career guidance) by the educational reform after 1990 (push-factor), and (c) the collapse of “syuushoku-kankou” (approved customs or practices of both high schools and employers, which enabled a smooth trade of job-seeking high school graduates between schools and employers without incurring huge employment costs). These factors contributed to the emergence and increase of the “kousotsu-mugyousya” while also changing the transition problem of some of the youths and creating a gap between school and work.

2. The question of who became “freeters” or “mugyousya” can be answered by observing their social characteristics and social origins. According to my empirical surveys, high-school graduates from relatively lower social strata (e.g.,whose fathers’ occupational or economic status is low) have a greater possibility of starting working life as “freeters” or “mugyousya” than those from a higher social class. It should not be considered that youth became “freeters” or “mugyousya” by choice. They are created through an educational selection and allocation mechanism.

Japanese society is currently experiencing a widening disparity between social classes in terms of opportunity. The changing pattern in youth transition from school to work is a consequence of this societal process.



Contemporary Aspects on Youth Employment in the Japanese Labor Market


Currently, the Japanese Labor Market is in disequilibrium. Some pillars of the Japanese employment system are crumbling because of the corporations. In other words, terms such as life-time employment, one package recruiting of new graduates, and personal development of the employee in the long term, have all been reduced from positive to passive concepts. As a result, an increasing number of young subscribers to the internal labor market have been facing difficulties in getting jobs as regular employees. Accordingly, in the absence of permanent jobs, there is a tendency for the younger generation to engage in atypical forms of employment such as part-time work, temporary work, and terminable employment contracts.

In Japan there is a type of labor market trade cycle each year to cater to the jobless graduates. The total number of unemployed people peaks every March and April and then recedes until February of the following year. For example, in the year 2003-2004, the number of the unemployed fluctuated between 300,000 and 130,000. Some of these were successful in finding a job but the others had to give up the search for a job in the labor market. Apart from the other job seekers, those of the younger generation are also easily disappointed and swell the ranks of the inactively unemployed.

As in advanced countries, the Japanese government has established a special program that aims at promoting youth employment by way of “Japanese style dual system” in the vocational training arena. Although several institutions could provide opportunities for the youth to make use of the training curriculum, it would take some time for trainees to gain an entry into the first labor market set up by the private job offers.

This critical aspect of youth employment could be the reason why the younger generation is being dissociated from the conventional Japanese style of management.

Additionally, the recruiting strategies of the companies have been as yet unable to discover a solution ; this has led to a big discrepancy between the qualifications required and the working life style required by the job seeker.

If members of the younger generation have to endure such difficulties in becoming citizens of society, they will have growing concerns about a society that is unable to provide them with adequate opportunities, with the emphasis being laid on individual responsibility under the “neo-liberalism” policy. It would also result in chaos since the youth are stratified as a closed and exclusive social group.



Role of social security system in supporting young people’s transitions to adulthood

 Hisashi FUKAWA

The transition process from adolescence to adulthood has extended and “post-adolescence” (transition period) has appeared. There is increasing polarization in occupations and earnings. Yong people require social support in order to become independent. For this purpose, the social security system has to be reformed.

First and foremost, the necessity and possibility of being dependent on parents should be reduced. Social income support for the youth should be increased. The rights-and-duties aspect of the social security system should be framed regardless of considerations such as parents’ income and property, living independently should be made possible, and the formation of a new family should be supported.

Second, despite the instability of employment and earnings, the occupational capability and career formation of the youth should be enabled. High school education and occupational training in vocational schools should be publicly supported.

Third, we should understand the condition of the unemployed and poverty stricken members of the younger generation who are unable to acquire a stable occupation. It is important that both the labor market policy and the public assistance system support the youth.

It is important to maximize the range covering the social insurance system and the public assistance system in order to support the independence of the youth.

The following reforms are required in order to enable the social insurance system to cover the youth:

① In the case of marginal employment under the employees’ health insurance and pension insurance subscription duty, an employee is exempt from insurance, but an employer should owe the obligation to pay insurance contribution.

② The requirements for subscription duty of unemployment insurance should be changed to “20 hours or more per week”.

In order for the public assistance system to support young people, the following three reforms are necessary:

① The supplementary aspect of a public assistance system should be modernized. The limit for possession of property (cash, savings, and car) should be revised upward. The requirements for duty to work must be fitted with the actual condition of the labor market. The support system provided by the relatives should be viewed in terms of the modified family relation.

② Even when the youth lives with their parents, a welfare office should calculate their income and living expenses in terms of individual household.

③ New programs supporting independence must be introduced. A synthetic assistance system should be created.

The overall reformation of the social security system should be based on these principles.



A Study on the Japanese Manufacturing Labor :   A Survey on Methodology

 Yoshinori TOMITA

The composition of the Japanese manufacturing employment has been structurally changing since the 1980s. The proportion of production workers of the total employment has declined substantially while the share of non-production workers (engineers) has steadily increased. This implies that the demand for production & non-production workers has changed to a large extent. This can be explained by the theory of “skill-biased technological change”. In this paper, an attempt has been made to revise the method that is used for analyzing the manufacturing workers. For this to happen, the origin of the change in the workforce in the manufacturing sector cannot be overlooked. Hence, it is important that a methodology implies the major roots of the origin of the labor market changes. Therefore, this study has developed a new methodology through an investigation of the research methods employed in previous studies on manufacturing workers. The proposed methodology is as follows:

1) distinguishing the composition of the labor force in the manufacturing industries and 2) focusing on the production management system. The first methodology is an attempt to categorize the workforce through an analysis of their careers. The second methodology can be used to analyze the actual effect of the target costing management system on the workforce. These methodologies were applied to an analysis in the second half of this paper. The key findings of this study can be summarized as follows : a) the composition of the workers depends on the characteristics of each industry and b) the basic functions of the workers and the organizations are regulated according to the target costing management system.



Single Parent Family Policies and Workfare –Features of systemic reforms in Japan and issues pertaining thereto


Workfare is a policy that has attracted a considerable amount of interest in recent years as a modern approach to restructuring the welfare state. It has been implemented in European countries, the United State, and elsewhere. Workfare is one of the main points to consider when examining social policy models applicable to single parent families. Hence, it is important that policymakers consider the actual circumstances in their respective countries and draft policies based on the inherent and distinctive features involved.

Japan has undertaken systemic reforms against the backdrop of financial burdens arising from an increase in the divorce rate in recent years, and specific measures in this respect were presented at the beginning of 2002. Although such efforts to reform the system are nascent, the philosophy underlying these policies regarding the notion of welfare to work has been put forth, and a transformation in the roles and functions of social welfare can be expected in the future. Based on the circumstances of the current social scenario, this paper focuses on trends concerning the workfare policies directed at single parent families in Japan. It examines the appropriateness of such policies in terms of Japanese attributes and organizing the issues in question.

The main concern associated with single mothers in Japan is that despite a consistently high rate of employment, there is no improvement with respect to the problems of poverty and low income. Recent trends indicate a widening income gap among the working poor; hence, it can be said that the policymakers should readjust the welfare policy before undertaking any initiatives toward implementing welfare to work programs. Additionally, a characteristic of the systemic reforms in Japan is that they target the child-rearing allowance for guardians, which is a social benefit rather than public assistance. The fact that such reforms target a social benefit granted to a quantitatively large segment of the population can be viewed as serving to promote a new exclusion. Consequently, priority is given to the creation of a safety net for single mothers by examining the social security policies from a comprehensive set of viewpoints. Furthermore, it is anticipated that policymakers will ascertain the reasons for the delays in forming policies applicable to single fathers and examine their orientation in terms of both uniqueness and the similarities of single parent families.



The Expansion in the Employment of Non-Regular Staff and New Personnel Management

A Case Study of X Department Store

 Etsuko AOYAMA

This paper explores the recent transformation of personnel management in relation to non-regular employees.

In Japan, approximately 15.5 million people have non-regular, unstable jobs. This segment constituted 31.5% of the employed population (excluding corporate executives) in the 1st qtr. of 2004. Males accounted for 29.3% of this segment, while females constituted 70.7%. Of the female employees, 52.6% were non-regular. There has been a rapid increase in the number of non-regular employees since the mid 1990s.

This figure has increased by 6 million from1994 to 2004. Non-regular employees displace regular employees and play an important role in organizations.

In the retail industry in particular, many companies widely employ part-time workers and contract employees with the intention of cutting back on labor costs.

The scope of this paper is restricted to the study of studying X Department Store. With a decrease in individual consumption, sales at department stores have declined for the past fifteen years. Therefore, these stores are undergoing restructuring and are cutting back on labor costs at an increasing rate.

The following five findings are indicated as the result of an analysis:

1) The employment of non-regular employees has accelerated since the mid 1990s.

This led to a decrease in the number of regular employees during that period. Consequently, non-regular employees displaced the regular employees.

2) Non-regular employees make significant contributions to the performance of department stores. In large department stores, contract employees form the core of sales promotion. New personnel management has been introduced specifically for them. Thus, the regular employees have been deprived of the employment opportunities they had in the past. Therefore, this is now an area of concern for labor unions.

3) Personnel management has come under review with the increase in the number of contract employees and the introduction of a new wage system based on their performance and ability.

4) The polarization among different types of part-time workers is intensifying. Some of these are primarily part-time workers and others work extra hours on demand. These two types are treated differently.

5) Only a handful of the non-regular employees are promoted to regular employment. X department store intends to discuss the issue of promotion to regular employment with the labor union.

In July 2002, there was an attempt at the formation of certain rules for balanced treatment of part-time and full-time employees in Japan. However, this is considered to be difficult due to the difference in the structures of employment for full-time and part-time employees ; for example, full-time workers can avail of overtime, transfer within the company, etc, which are not available to part-time workers.  However, equality is desirable and its pursuit remains of primary concern of contemporary Japanese society.



Trend of life satisfaction and the social strata of wives

Evidence by Japanese Panel Survey of Consumers 


 The purpose of this study is to examine the following problem using panel data: What kind of long-time trend dose the level of life satisfaction show according to a trend of the social strata of wives?  We used data from the “Japanese Panel Survey of Consumes”.

This panel survey began in1993 and is being conducted annually for the past 11 years.

The object of this study is to survey only “continuing wives” (those who did not divorced) during the past 11 years. A total of 621 samples were reported. The question posed to them was, “Are you satisfied with life as a whole?” The candidate had to rate her answers on a scale of 1-5. We examined life satisfaction for each social stratum that were separated on the basis of occupation classes and income quintiles.

The result were as follows : First, the level of life satisfaction of all wives showed a tendency to decrease only in the long term. This is termed as the “marriage continuation effect.”

Second, approximately 70% of the wives surveyed stayed with the occupation for the 11 years and the remaining rate of every years was high with 80%, too. There was a decrease in the level of overall life satisfaction during the 11 years ; however, the level of life satisfaction for a continuing wife belonging to the working class showed a consistently lower trend than that of a continuing wife from the new middle class.

Third, approximately 50% of the wives in the highest income quintile group stayed in the same group during the 11 years. The remaining rate in the income quintiles was lower than that in the occupation classes. The annual remaining rate rose slowly in almost all groups, and there was also a gradual annual widening of the income gap in the groups after 1999. There was a tendency for the long-term life-satisfaction level of both social stratum to be reduced.

As mentioned earlier, we deducted the “marriage continuation effect.”

Wives from every social stratum were greatly influenced by the “marriage continuation effect,” the effect of the occupation class, their age factor, and an effect of the income group. As a matter of fact, the level of life satisfaction is described as a multilayered factor. To some extent, due to the situation of the occupation classes and income groups, there was restraint or side to promote by a negative effect of “marriage continuation.” Moreover, it was observed that in both the occupation classes and the income groups, the gap in the level of life satisfaction widened gradually. More importantly, it was found that the above mentioned facts hold true in the cases of wives aged between 34 to 44, whose eldest children were in junior or senior high schools. The study is still a preliminary examination of why these social stratum exhibited a life satisfaction gap. We intend to examine this point in greater detail in the future.



The Prospect of Financial Instability of the Social Security System and Policy Measures in the Republic of Korea

 Soon-il BARK

The social impact of an economic crisis can leave deep and enduring imprints on the economic structure in the form of a high unemployment rate, a drastic increase in the number of irregular workers, poverty, and severe disparity of income between the rich and the poor. Various social problems also affect an individual’s quality of life.

The number of homeless people has increased manifold. Also, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of disintegrated families, divorces, and juvenile delinquents. The Korean government has taken certain prompt countermeasures in response to these severe effects, investing an unprecedented amount of the budget in various programs. Additionally, the post-crisis social expenditure has rapidly soared as a result of the huge increases in spending on cash aid, public works, unemployment benefits, public pension, and medical insurance. As a consequence, Korea’s social expenditure as a proportion of GDP in 1999 has risen almost to the levels of that of the US and Japan and it will continue to increase over time with the rapid pace of population aging. Such a rapid expansion in social expenditure is likely to go beyond a sustainable level and beyond the affordability of oncoming generations.

Korea’s social expenditure as a proportion of GDP is still approximately 3~4% lower than the level estimated as adequate for 2002 by the OECD standard when Korea recovered its per capita GDP of $10,000. However, the recent rate of expansion of the social insurance expenditure looks formidable and its proportion in GDP will exceed 15% in the next 10 years. Furthermore, financial shortages expected in the future, particularly in pension and medical insurance, would result in raising the payroll tax rate to almost 30% of average salaries in order to preserve current social insurance benefits and this in turn will entail disincentives for the economy. Fearing this, the Government’s efforts to restructure the National Pension Scheme has been provoking a great deal of hostility in political circles and civic bodies. The National Health Insurance is continues to await fundamental restoration on order to contain the health expenditure and improve the security of basic medical services, this is yet another matter for debate.



Single Parenthood, Paid Work, and Social Class in Contemporary Japan


This paper examines single parenthood in Japan from the perspective of social class. Several studies concerning single mothers conducted in other industrialized countries suggest a link between economic disadvantages of single parent families and social class. However, in Japan it is widely believed that the recent in increase in divorce rates is a result of women’s higher educational attainment and economic independence. Consequently, policies targeting single mothers have paid scant attention to improving the educational qualifications of single mothers. Yet, there is reason to suggest that educational attainment and class background are also important factors in Japan. According to a recent survey conducted by the Japan Institute of Labor (JIL), a significantly larger proportion of single parents have only junior or senior high school degrees as compared to married parents.

In the light of the above observation, this paper explores the relationship between educational attainment and employment patterns among single mothers. In general, the income levels of single mothers and their participation in the labor force are not lower than those of other women. Yet, when viewed from the perspective of educational attainment, their participation in the labor force and the level of employment as permanent employees is lower among single mothers with junior high school degrees than among single mothers with university degrees. Lack of educational qualifications, thus appears to be one of the major reasons for the limited employability and low incomes of single mothers.

Furthermore, according to the nation census, divorcees and widowed men and women tend to have a lower educational attainment than married couples. There are two potential explanations for this. First, those with lower educational attainment have a higher tendency to divorce or become widowed than couples with higher educational attainment. The other possible explanation is that it may be more difficult for those with lower educational attainment to remarry. Unfortunately, there is no available empirical data to confirm these hypotheses.

These findings have important implications for single parent policies in Japan. If there is a higher probability for a woman with lower educational attainment to become a single mother, and if lower educational attainment constrains overall income levels and the potential to work as a permanent employee, then policies need to address these gaps in educational attainment as a major barrier to work and income. The introduction of educational programs would be an important step toward preventing the reproduction of poverty and could significantly improve the life chances of single mothers and their children.



The Development of Japanese Social Policies and its Structural Characteristics

 Kingo TAMAI

Japan has a history and tradition of social policies that stretches more than a century back in time. In order to discuss the structural characteristics of its social policies, it is necessary to divide this long history into periods according to the social problems that the social policies were formulated to address in order to illuminate the dynamic movements of each period. This history can be divided into three periods. The first period spans the years from the prewar to the postwar era, the period following this era was a high-growth period, and the last period stretches from the end of the high-growth period to the present day. This first era was characterized by “unemployment” and “poverty”, while “full employment” and “social security” were the important themes in the second period.

Needless to say, the government played an important role as an executing agent of social policies but, depending on the period, municipalities also made significant contributions. Moreover, various initiatives have been taken since the prewar period by enterprises, local regions and families, and have been developed and interwoven with social policies of the government and municipalities ; these initiatives constitute an essential factor when identifying characteristics unique to Japan. This is even more so, as this structure has been maintained until recent years.

Since the interest in international comparison of welfare states in East Asia has been significantly heightened lately, outlining the history of the Japanese social policies will be highly fruitful. In this respect, there is a strong international demand for comparisons between nations based on thorough understanding of historical structures, rather than mere comparisons of various modern aspects. This paper presents characteristics unique to the Japanese welfare state from the aspect of social policies in order to meet this demand.



2005 Revision of Long-term Care Insurance:  Financial Sustainability and Integration of the Subsidy System for the Disabled

 Takafumi UZUHASHI

After I presented a report at the December 2003 meeting of the Korean Society for the Study of Social Policy, the environment surrounding Japan’s long-term care insurance system underwent a dramatic turnaround.

One of the changes that took place was that the issue of integrating the subsidy system for the disabled people, which is funded by general tax revenues, with the long-term care insurance system, which depends on insurance premiums and tax revenues for financial resources, rose to the surface. In this article, attention is paid to the fact that this development was initiated by the side of the subsidy system for the disabled. The background of this movement is examined so as to shed light on the problems of the subsidy system, and the subsequent development is followed up.

The second change was that a question regarding the economic sustainability of the long-term care insurance system surfaced during the debate concerning a revision to the system, scheduled to take place during the 2005 fiscal year.

These two issues are still in a fluid state as of this writing (early November 2004). Partly for this reason, a close follow-up is made of the development surrounding the planned long-term care insurance system revision up to the last minute so as to clarify its background and significance.

Our stance and point of view are described in detail in the concluding remark.

It first explains that the experience of the five years following the establishment of the long-term care insurance system deserves positive assessment to a large extent, but that several points have been identified as needing improvement as they relate to measures for people with low income. These are points that should be given serious consideration in the discussion about the planned integration of the insurance system with the subsidy system for the disabled. As for the issue of economic sustainability, that fact that there is no need for pessimism is indicated, based on international comparison.