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Vol. 14 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)

Demographic and Socioeconomic Backgrounds of Below-Replacement Fertility in Japan

Noriko TSUYA

This paper examines the demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds of below-replacement fertility in Japan.  As in many industrialized countries, Japan has experienced two fertility transitions: the first, an initial decline from historical highs to replacement levels of fertility shortly after World WarⅡ; and the second, a decline to below-replacement levels since the mid -1970s. The decline to below-replacement levels is due primarily to decreasing rates of marriage among young Japanese women, while marital fertility also began to decline in recent years,

Socio-demographic factors responsible for declining marriage among women are rapid increases in educational attainment, employment, and earnings as reflected by rapid improvement in the social status of women, which in turn have raised the opportunity costs for women related to marriage and family formation. The level of fertility among married women tends to be lower than their intended and desired fertility, and the gap is larger within the more recently married. One of the major factors responsible for this gap seems to be the heavy and increasing costs and pressure associated with child-rearing.

Comparisons with Western industrialized countries experiencing similar changes in the status of women in which fertility has not declined to very low levels offer important social and policy implications. Given that childbearing has remained strictly within marriage in Japan, the institutions of marriage and the family need to be more flexible and gender-equal. Labor-market and employment policies need to be more family friendly, and family policy also needs to be more extensive to help wives and couples balance their work and family responsibilities.



The Changing Relationship between Female Labor Force Participation Rates and Fertility in Developed Countries


The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, we show the relationship between female labor force participation(FLFP) and the total fertility rate (TFR) based on various statistics and data sets ; second, the statistical facts are explained theoretically and show that the key to understanding this relationship is a reconciliation between work and family; and third, we compare the work/family reconciliation policies of OECD countries and discuss the causes of the low and declining TFR in Japan.

The relationship between FLFP and the TFR is as follows.  1) Data from various countries show that there was a negative correlation between FLFP and the TFR in the 1970s, but it turned positive in the mid-1980s.  2) Time-series data show that FLFP increased and the TFR declined during the last thirty years in most OECD countries. Countries that have strong negative correlations between the changes in FLFP and the TFR are suffering from low TFR. 3) Japanese micro-date show that the probability of childbirth is negatively correlated with female employment.  The childcare-leave system and childcare centers tend to increase the probability of childbirth.  4) Japanese micro-data also show that the probability of female participation is negatively correlated with the existence of children under school age, but is positively correlated with children over seven years of age.  The supply of childcare centers increases the probability of female participation.

The household production model explains the relationship between FLFP and the TFR as follows. The substitutability between a mother’s childcare and childcare services outside the household, and also that between a mother’s childcare and a father’s childcare, are important determinants of the relationship between FLFP and the TFR. Although an increase in FLFP reduces female childcare, its effect on fertility will be minimized if childcare outside the household and male childcare compensate for the decline in female childcare. Work/family reconciliation policies increase the substitutability between female childcare and childcare services outside the household.

The above conjecture is supported by statistical facts.  1) Countries that have solid work/family reconciliation policies tend to have high FLFP rates and high TFRs. 2) In countries that have inferior work/family reconciliation policies,an increase in FLFP tend to cause a large decline of the TFR. Moreover, the index of gender empowerment is positively correlated with work/family reconciliation policy and with the TFR.  This implies that the power of women promotes work/family reconciliation policies and minimizes the negative effects of an increase in FLFP on the TRF. The lack of power women hold in Japan causes inferior work /family reconciliation policies and less childcare being devoted by husbands, which has resulted in the low TFR.



Declining Birthrate and Family Responsibility :  The Burden of Childrearing Expenses on Families

Ryoko Hattori

In analyzing Japan’s declining birthrate, one of the chief factors being discussed is childcare expenses for children of school age or older. In bearing childrearing expenses, a substantial economic burden, as well as their timing, have been pointed out. In fact, more than half of men and women aged 20 to 40-the main age group of those getting married and reading children-consider that their parental responsibilities extend until their sons or daughters graduate from a university or become working adults. In this sense, child support implies to such parents the burden of rearing expenses, which are mainly educational expenses.

According to the average level of per capita childrearing expenses derived from various surveys, such expenses may be greater than the costs of housing, depending on what kind of school is chosen. The percentage of educational expenses in total consumption increases after the end of compulsory education, reaching 26.5% when the first son or daughter enters college. This is because examinations for junior or senior high school and supplementary educational expenses, such as fees for cram schools or home tutors, are prevalent. More than half of households are stretching their domestic budget to pay educational expenses by cutting other expenses or withdrawing their savings.

The background of such an increase in educational expenses is a higher percentage of students enrolling in senior high schools, exceeding 95 % since the 1980s. In 2002, the percentage enrolling in universities reached 44.8%, and now, two-thirds of senior high school graduates enter an upper-level school, if students who enter advanced vocational schools are included. In addition, a market economy has been pursued in Japan since the 1980s, and targeting small government, the administration at that time reduced public responsibility for education. It has been revealed that one of the results of this reduction has been a heavier burden of educational expenses on the family budget.

The economic burden on parents and family members for rearing and educating children has continued to increase since the 1990s. The present burden of childrearing costs and the reality of responsibility for childrearing are widely recognized by people in Japan. As long as parents and /or family members must bear the burden of care and support for children as their family responsibility, it is assumed that both men and women will only undertake having and rearing a baby to the extent that they can perform these responsibilities. Since the1990s, the birthrate has continued to decline as a result of such considerations. To cope with the declining birthrate, everyone concerned must now consider childrearing and education as something that should be supported by society, in order to lighten the economic burden on families.



Family Policy Developments in Japan : Fertility Decline and Economic Support

Michihiko TOKORO

This paper will focus on the recent development of Japanese family policies in a comparative perspective. The rapid fertility decline has led to new policy initiatives for families and children. Childcare services expanded since the 1990s, while the reconciliation of work and family life has been addressed by these new policies. On the other hand, direct economic support of families with children has not improved and the level of support is still inadequate. A comparative analysis of the policy package including cash benefits, tax allowances, childcare services and other subsidies, which support a family with the costs of rearing children, suggests that Japanese packages were less generous than most other industrialized countries in 2001. It is also important to note that this situation has remained unchanged during the last five years, despite the importance of supporting families that has been repeatedly emphasized in domestic politics. This is in sharp contrast with policy developments in Britain, where the support packages since 1997 under the Labour government have been improving in order to tackle child poverty. The new initiatives of British family policies include the introduction of tax benefits and increasing childcare cost tax deductions.

There are some arguments for increasing the level of cash benefits to halt the fertility decline in Japan. In fact, child-related tax benefits are limited and less generous in terms of amount and provisions compared with other countries, and it is important to extend benefits and reduce the costs of rearing children. However, economic support of families should not be considered in the context of demographic policy. Japanese family policies need to pay more attention to poverty among children, particularly the issue of single-parent families, which is also spreading as a result of the rising divorce rate. As the hardships of single-mother families can become more evident in a country with a social system based on a male-breadwinner family model, this will be a major issue for Japanese social policy.

The main aim of future family policies should be supporting children, not increasing their number. It is necessary for us to respond to the wide range of issues brought by family changes, which are well beyond the scope of the fertility crisis.



Pay-for-Performance in the United States of America : Not Always Individual Performance Pay


In the United States, it is usually said that the job-based pay system is being replaced by person-based pay planes. I would like to discuss the true trend of the U.S. pay system, because many Japanese companies are attempting to implement this pay system, but they have misunderstood it.

Job-based wage plans used to be quite popular among U.S. companies, and “job” is the basis of not only the pay plan, but also the work system. A job-based pay plan is usually called a “traditional plan”. However, in the late1960s, non-traditional plans, such as skill-based pay, began to be utilized for production employees. Skill-based pay is well suited in team-based environments that require individuals to learn multiple skills.  New pay plans became widespread under the hard economic circumstances after the oil crisis. New pay plans are called by many names, for example, skill-based pay, knowledge-based pay, variable pay, alternative reward programs, and so on. There are so many ways to describe this system, but sometimes there are no differences, other than the names. HRM consultants want to sell these new payment plans, so they contrive new names.

Even though many articles in American journals often discuss non-traditional pay systems, they do not dominate the pay systems used by U.S. companies. I examined several pay system surveys. Skill- or knowledge-based pay was used by less than ten percent of companies. Group incentives, profit-sharing and gain-sharing are more popular than individual incentive plans. Non-traditional pay plans that reward individuals may destroy teamwork, therefore individual performance pay plans are avoided.

Most articles in Japanese journals miss the true trend of U.S. company pay systems. Non-traditional pay plans do not entail individual performance pay, but rather group of company performance pay. Japanese companies must be careful to understand the true U.S. trends.

The reason why non-traditional wage plans are not widespread among most companies is related to corporate strategy. Each company prefers their own strategy, and there must be some differences. For example, employees may become a company’s variable resource, but it takes time to educate and train them. As result, not all companies choose an employee-oriented strategy.



Protection of Home Teleworkers in Japan: Law and Legislation


A few million home teleworkers are working in Japan. However, they do not have laws or other legislation protecting them.

About 70.1% of these workers are women, and their incomes average less than \1,500,000 per year, according to Ministry of Labor (MOL) government statistics. On the other hand, the International Labour Organization (UN) adopted the Home Work Convention (No.177) of 1996. The National Diet of the Japanese government has not ratified that convention. Furthermore, the MOL is currently not taking any action for ratification.  The MOL has only issued guidelines for improving conditions of home teleworkers in Japan. The guidelines have seven provisions, however none carry any penalty for non-compliance.

Japan has enacted the Industrial Home Work Law (1970). However, this law applies only to manufacturing home-workers. Home teleworkers are referred to as self- employed, however, they earn piece-rate wages. It is urgent for Japan to ratify the ILO Home Work Convention, and enact laws for the protection of home teleworkers in Japan.



Evaluation of Welfare Allowances as Anti-Economic Measures : The Case of Osaka


This study focused on the anti-economic measures of the Osaka welfare allowance program and calculated its effect and influence on the local economy. Using the example of Osaka, I performed calculations with concrete data of Osaka.

As a result, I determined that in 2003, the welfare allowance of 206.0 billion yen finally caused demand increase in the local economy of 345.3 billion yen. On the other hand, a reduction of income taxes only had an economic influence of 241.7 billion yen, and also, public construction spending was only 337.3 billion yen. Therefore, welfare allowances are understood to be a superior policy for stimulating the economy. Furthermore, when calculating the effect upon creating employment, only 25,474 employment positions were created by public constructing spending, and 19,560 employment positions were created by a reduction of income taxes, whereas the welfare allowance program created 27,685 employment positions.



The Division of Labor on Assembly Shop Floors in Japanese Automobile and Electrical/Electronic Equipment Industries

Uichi ASAO, Yutaka TAMURA and Eishi FUJITA

This paper discusses the characteristics of the division of labor on assembly shop floors in Japanese automobile and electrical/electronic equipment industries using international comparisons. Our hypothesis is that assembly work is comprised of standardized operations (repetitive routine tasks) and non-standardized operations (dealing with changes and problems, improvement activities, preparing standard operation sheets, suggestions for the development of new products, and so on). As standardized operations become more functionally complete and include the entire work process, assembly workers will take charge of more non-standardized operations.

To prove this hypothesis, we analyzed the characteristics of the division of labor on three assembly shop floors : the parallel product flow system of Volvo Uddevalla plant, the complete processes of Toyota’s assembly shops, and the cell production system of the “N” Company that produces computer peripheral devices. As a result, we reached the following temporary conclusions.

Firstly, the characteristics of the division of labor in the above three cases is to restrain excessive fragmentation of standardized operations, which was characteristic of the prototype Ford and Toyota production systems before introduction of the complete process, i.e., to recover the functional completeness and wholeness of the process. Secondly, there is a great difference in the degree that the standardized operation recovers the functional completeness and wholeness. The difference varies according to the length of cycle time of the standardized operation, and reveals two types of divisions in the non-standardized operation. One type occurs if separate workers take charge of the standardized operation and the non-standardized operation, respectively, when the standardized operation of one assembly worker or one work group is part of assembling the whole product and is performed in a very short cycle time. The other type is if an assembly worker or work group takes charge of the more non-standardized operation when the standardized operation of one assembly worker or one work group is assembling the whole product, and is performed in a long cycle time.



Pension Reform in 2004: Birth of Welfare Politics?


An Upper House election was conducted in Japan in 2004. Although the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) managed to maintain the power, the election resulted in a defeat for the LDP. One of the causes of the defeat was the pension reform of the same year. This paper aims to look into the background of this pension reform.

In the time of the proto-welfare state, the coverage of the Japanese public pension system gradually widened, and a state of universal pension coverage was reached in 1961. After that point, The Japanese public pension system consistently continued to expand in terms of the benefit level as well and a dramatic improvement was implemented in1973. From a social expenditure point of view, this year marked the beginning of formation of the Japanese welfare state. 1973, however, was also the year of the first major oil crisis and the year when the period of “welfare state crisis” started on a global scale. For this reason, the consistent theme of the pension reforms that have been promoted in Japan in 1985 and onward has been retrenchment.

The public pension system is supported by substructures that can be categorized into the fields of [1] population composition, [2] production field and [3] reproduction field. The Japanese pensions originally assumed [1] a pyramid-shaped population composition, [2] stable employment and [3] division of labor based on gender ; however, these assumptions went through a complete collapse in the 1990s due to [1] a rapidly dropping birth rate, [2] flexible employment and [3] degenderization. This also forms a part of the background of the pention reform of this time.

The pension reform in 2004 mainly attempted to adapt the system to the changes in the population composition and an indexation linked to the population composition was introduced. However, sufficient countermeasures against more flexible employment and degenderization were not taken, and remain as future challenges.



Work Management of Contract Labor at Production Sites

 Kensaku TOMURO

Today, within the Japanese manufacturing industry, the use of contract labor is increasing at factories. There is a wide scope of work that contract laborers are performing.

Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to resolve how to conduct work management of contract laborers at a production site, based on my participant observations over 105 days. During this time, I noticed that contract laborers working outside of production lines play an important role in work management, so I have proposed one characteristic of work management through the analysis of their work.

I investigated the NMCP manufacturing company, a subcontractor of the large electric company, Nanboku. NMCP manufactures portable telephone sets.

This paper proposes a resolution for the following points.

(1) Work management of contract laborers is performed not by contract companies, but by NMCP that places orders with contracting companies. The contracting companies perform only the personnel management of their contract laborers.

(2) Contract laborers are working both within and apart from production lines at the work sites of NMCP. Working within lines is more prevalent than working apart. Workers away from production lines mainly perform the following tasks :

       a) guide and assist contract laborers in lines in all processes ;

       b) decide the position of contract laborers in lines ; and

       c) supervise contract laborers in lines.

In short, contract laborers apart from production lines shoulder the direct work management of contract laborers within lines, and contribute to maintaining order in production sites employing contract labor.

(3) Because NMCP relegated personnel management to contract companies and left the direct work management to contract laborers apart from lines, NMCP achieved almost hands-free management of contract laborers. In this way, NMCP only needs to order additional contract laborers to work apart from production lines, and NMCP can then utilize a large number of workers in an inexpensive labor force that NMCP is not responsible for employing.

(4) However, contract laborers apart from production lines receive as much pay as contract laborers working within lines, and are not employees of NMCP. I discovered friction occurring between contract laborers apart from lines and the contract laborers within lines. Work management of contract labor creates a heavy burden for contract laborers working apart from production lines.