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Vol. 10 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)

Unemployment and Precarious Employment in Contemporary Japan

Kazumichi GOKA

Today, Japan is entering a new era of mass unemployment and irregular, precarious employment. The number of unemployed persons exceeded 3.5 million and the rate of unemployment was over 5.4 percent in 2002.While the number of regular employees was cut by 3.99 million from 1997 to 2002, irregular employees increased by 3.68 million during the same period. This has been brought about by both personnel management by employers and by the government’s deregulation policies in order to overcome the current depression and survive against the tough competition in the globalization of the economy. Growing globalization has been forcing Japanese companies to reduce labour costs and labour standards. Moving Japanese factories and establishments overseas has hollowed out domestic industries and increased unemployment.

Flexible employment will allow companies to increase efficiency by cutting labour costs on the one hand, but will also impose difficulties on the Japanese economy by curtailing demand in the domestic market on the other hand. Replacing regular employees with irregular ones means an increase in the ratio of low-wage earners. Therefore, we should pursue increased job opportunities by ensuring fair labour standards which have been jeopardized by globalization.



Unemployment Issues as a Confrontation with Generations


One of the notable features of increasing unemployment is that the net employment declines at firms as middle-aged and older employees increase. Our empirical study confirms this fact, even controlling for endoseneity and selection biases. Young workers are more likely to face difficulty in finding full-time jobs at aging firms. Until the mid 1990s, senior workers could find new employment opportunities through derect transfer between firmes. However, a huge increase in displaced senior workers occurred after the financial crisis of 1998.  They also face difficulty in job finding without personal networks and firm-to-firm relationships.



How Should We Promote Stable Employment?


Long-term, stable employment gives great benefits to both employees and employers. Employees earn steady incomes, while employers secure human resources that are critical to win in worldwide competition. It is important to maintain and promote the ‘normal’ employment (sei-shain) system. But this employment arrangement is now under heavy pressure to change because of a serious depression in Japan. How is it possible to maintain the system in the increasing diversity of employment relationships?  In this paper, I discuss what employment policies can and should be taken by the employers.  Three general policies are proposed.

First, employers should change the base for calculation of overtime allowances. The base is now only on monthly pay. But, because semiannual bonuses and other fringe benefits are substantial, overtime premiums are actually minus, even if they are theoretically plus. If the calculation is based on real labor costs, daily overtime work will substantially decrease. This will result in more working hours for employees and increased normal employment.

Second, employers should offer a stable employment policy for young people.  There are already arrangements such as the introduction-scheduled dispatch (shokai-yotei-haken) or the trial-employment (toraiaru-koyoh). But more positive measures should be taken. We, for instance, should start the discussion about work sharing between generations.

Third, and most important, employers should promote a system which permits diverse statuses within normal employment. The current single normal employee status requires a high commitment that enterprises demand from employees. Many of the employees simply cannot devote themselves that way because of their private lives with their families. The new system, which permits assorted arrangements of normal employment, will be able to satisfy diverse groups of employees with different life styles.



Divison of Labor, Circumstances and Relations in Nursing Homes for the Disabled Elderly


This paper explores the present situation of circumstances, relations and division of labor in nursing homes for the elderly.  The actual contents and reciprocal relations over the division of labor are far removed from how the government perceives them and from the ideas held by caregivers.  That is why, in spite of expectations and potential, the introduction of Care Management followed by Long Term Care Insurance had no substantial impact on the division of labor in nursing homes.  This paper concludes that there is a need to reconsider and discuss the validity of conventional ideas concerning the elderly, their families, as well as institutional/ actual notions about the style and contents of care needed, along with ideas regarding institutional cooperation.  It also suggests that simply increasing the number of caregivers and pursuing professionalism among caregivers might be harmful to the mutual relationships between the elderly and their caregevers, and that among the caregivers themselves.



The Long-term Care Insurance System Separated from the Needs of the Aged

With the aim of establishing “The Long-term Care Security System”

Hironao OZAKI

This article discusses a contradiction under the reconstruction of the Medical Insurance System for the aged after the Long-term Care Insurance System starts in Japan, an aging society.

As the aged are increasing in Japan, the amount of medical expenses for them is simultaneously increasing, which makes the Medical Insurance System to be in financial difficulty. Then the national government decided to reconstruct the Medical Insurance System by means of gradually dissociating medical expenses for the aged. This reconstruction is closely connected with the enactment of the Long-term Care Insurance System.

Medical treatment services for the aged are being changed to services that put emphasis on the long-term care, which means a decline in the standard of medical trearment services. As the result of these reconstructions, the Long-term Care Insurance System has brought about conflicts with old people who have various medical needs.

Finally, the Long-term Care Security System should be extended for the establishment of “The Long-term Care Security System” that can also meet various needs of chronic invalids.



Part-time Workers in the Retail Indestry:  the Occupational Field and its Industrial Relations


In the retail industry in Japan, corporate managers have widely employed part-time workers for the purpose of cutting labor costs, thus expanding these workers’ occupational field. Trade unions have also accepted the expansion, leading to a certain degree of improvement in working conditions for part-time workers. As a result, part-time workers’ skills have increased and they have assumed administrative roles, but their working conditions have not beet better than regular employees working in the same position. This suggests that many conflicting relationships may emerge among employees due to the expansion of the part-time occupational field.

This article uses a retail business as its focus to analyze the institutional and historical expansion and transformation of the part-time occupational field in relation to both the conditions and job training system for regular employees, while also considering the logic of the trade union that has boosted this expansion.

The findings show that, with the extension of the part-time occupational field, the job training of regular employees has become a contentious issue in industrial relations and trade unions need to create new principles for wage determination.



Labor Unions and Disputes Over Reform in the Japan Socialist Party

Ichiro OKADA

It has generally been thought that one of the factors in the decline of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) has been caused by ideology. In other words, many voters have felt alienated and the party has failed to be part of the administration because the JSP has stuck to Marxism and Leninism without taking a realistic point of view.

However, this idea cannnot explain why the strength of the JSP has not recovered since the Party abandoned Marxism and Leninism.

Therefore,this paper pays more attention to the JSP’s organization, rather than to its ideology. Under the assumption that the weakness of the organization led to this lack of support, changes in the organization of the JSP are called for. This paper pays the most attention to the movements of people who actually run the activities of the JSP and labor unions, including the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan.

In the latter half of the 1950s, the JSP determined that a constitution that relied on labor unions limited expansion of party strength. The party tried to become the ruling party by expanding its base of support beyond labor unions. In addition to expanding support for the JSP beyond labor unions, the organization was reformed so that activists would be the central focus. The influence for reform was involved in factional disputes, bringing reform to a standstill, and resulted in changes that deepened the party’s reliance on labor unions.



The Local Structure of Homeless Provisions

a Case Study in Cardiff, Wales

Yoshihiro OKAMOTO

This paper reviews the homeless provisions in Cardiff, Wales.

At first it discusses the fundings of the study on homelessness in the UK.  The causes of homelessness are: economic restructuring, sociodemographic transformations, the changing of the political environment, and private problems.  The homeless became younger, went from family to single persons, became more troublesome, and experienced a shortage of government resources over the course of the 1980s and 1990s.

Secondarily, it discusses the findings of statistics on homelessness in the UK and finds the characteristics in Cardiff.

Thirdly, it describes the homeless provisions in Cardiff.  They are composed of three levels:  primary services, secondary services and tertiary services. The primary services are composed of front-line outreach and the provision of accommodations. The secondary services are provisions of accommodations with various types of support. The tertiary services are general provisions of accomodations with support and specialist housing provisions for these who are likely to be homeless without support. The floating support brings the homeless from secondary services accommodations to permanent housing. The secondary support agencies indirectly aid the homeless field and support homeless or potentially homeless people.  The location of service provisions in the downtown area of Cardiff helps the every day life of homeless people.