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Vol. 15 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)

From Peasant Time to Company Time : Work-Life Patterns in the Japanese Past


According to standard economic theory, a rise in family income is typically followed by an increased demand for leisure and a reduced supply of labour for paid work. In reality, however, this was not always the case in many countries. This paper examines both quantitative and non-quantitative evidence to determine what actually happened to work and private life in Japan’s relatively recent history (from the Tokugawa era to the present). The paper proposes that the entire process be viewed as a transition from “peasant time” to “company time”.

This may sound similar to E.P. Thompson’s thesis, but there are several different points. First, Tokugawa peasant families were less task-oriented than the preindustrial workers described by Thompson. For the Tokugawa peasant, planning over an entire farming season and the intra-household coordination of work time were of prime importance. This must have imparted a sense of the value of time. Secondly, the factory was therefore not where time discipline was first imposed. What separated a modern regime of “company time” from that of “peasant time” was not necessarily the use of clock time but the emergence of a sense that “time belonged to the firm,” rather than to individual families. Thirdly, however, even this sense of “company time” can be traced back to merchant houses in the Tokugawa period. Not surprisingly, there was an underlying tendency to consequently increase working hours throughout these time regimes. Only government legislation and external pressure apparently arrested the process of increasing the hours of work.

Since the 1920s there have been significant structural changes to the workforce and related work-life patterns. For instance, there are now more white-collar workers and fewer self-employed. However, a comparison of the time devoted to work between the pre-and post-World WarⅡperiods reveals that the average hours actually worked by men were not reduced among all occupational groups. While the average work time for blue-collar workers was clearly reduced (thus reflecting the impact of postwar labour legislation), the work hours of white-collar workers did not decrease. The balance between work and private life also changed for women. With the rise of “breadwinner” families, married women initially spent many more hours devoted to childcare and housekeeping. Yet, the postwar decline in family size and the diffusion of home appliances enabled women to seek work outside the home. Given the emergence of double-income families, the workload on married women once again increased with little time left for leisurely activities. Consequently, the total hours worked by women at home and outside the household have exceeded the total work hours of their husbands, thus reflecting a pattern that ironically resembles the traditional work pattern of “peasant time”.



Allocation Structure of Gainful Work Time and Time Use from a Gender Perspective:  A Study of the Japanese Situation Using Statistical Data


This paper uses official statistical data to examine the allocation of gainful work time and time use from the perspective of gender. It is based on gender-disaggregated data and gainful work time data by type of employment, and time use data by wife and husband, which reflect gender relations better than when based on data by gender.

For gainful work time, (i) quantitative aspects of work done by employees including estimated unpaid overtime work hours are observed and (ii) characteristics of employees working long hours are investigated through microdata [JP1]. The major findings from (i) show that hours differ significantly among industries, and that men always work longer than women. Work hours tend to be longer in the in the wholesale and retail trade industries, at eating and drinking establishments, and in financing and insurance firms. The major findings from (ii) show that workers tend to work much longer than average when their occupations combine certain characteristics of (a) the wholesale and retail trade industries, eating and drinking establishments, sales or service sectors, and (b) the transport and communications industries.

Time allocation, especially for married couples with one or more children, is analyzed using data obtained from a 2001 Survey on Time Use and Leisure Activity conducted by the Statistics Bureau. The findings reveal that husbands worked an average of 9 hours, 14 minutes per weekday, while only about one-tenth participated in household-related work, and that wives devoted many hours to both gainful employment and household-related work.

This paper also discusses an international comparison of gainful work time and time use. It was found that male Japanese workers spent many more hours devoted to gainful employment than the males of other countries, and that Japan showed the largest gender gap in terms of time spent on household-related work and that devoted to leisurely activities.

In conclusion, full-time Japanese male workers work too long, with the resultant negative impact on the work-life balance for male and female workers being confirmed and emphasized. Given the growing number of dual-income couples, there is an urgent need to reduce the gainful work hours for male workers in order to realize a more equitable work-life balance for both men and women in Japan.



Work time and private time under the EU labour law policy: Implications for Japan


Since the EEC was established in 1958, a European law policy on work time has been developed to reflect a growing awareness of current social issues, such as social dumping, the sharing of work, health and safety in the workplace, and reconciliation between work time and family life. Since the 1990s, business-friendly flexibility in terms of work time has been stressed and the easing of work time regulations pursued.

Conversely, family-friendly flexibility regarding work time has become an urgent need.

Thus, ‘flexibility’ has become a keyword with a double meaning. A new perspective on organizing time over work life is now emerging. Traditional labour law policy based on a model of full-time male workers is being compelled to change in order to account for the growing numbers of women joining the workforce and part-time workers.



For a Feasible Work Time Policy in Japan

                                                             Norio HISAMOTO

Legislation governing work hours is rather strict in Japan when considered from a legal standpoint. In fact, however, overtime as an exception in law is a daily phenomenon in the Japanese labor world. Many people work overtime and come home late on a regular basis. This situation has a serious impact on family life. Therefore, this paper proposes a feasible work time policy in the modern Japanese context.

Initially discussed are the meaning and purpose of “work”. Employees not only work for money, but also for a sense of personal identity and career development. No one wants to do meaningless work. Thus, a work time policy must be discussed from this perspective.

Four proposed measures to maintain appropriate work time are as follows:

(1)  Monitoring companies more closely. A fair labor market cannot be maintained when certain companies earn profits illegally at the expense of law-abiding companies. Therefore, the functions of the Labor Standards Supervision Office must be expanded and strengthened.

(2)  Establishing fair overtime pay. When viewed from the labor cost per time, overtime work is economical for employers. This situation gives companies a strong incentive to pursue overtime work. Therefore, the Labor Standards Law should be revised immediately to address this problem.

(3)  Applying work hour regulations according to wage level. The exemption of work hour regulations is currently at the discretion of management. The position of “manager” is often abused in avoiding application of the law. Consequently, it may be necessary to consider a regulation based on wage level.

(4)  Diversifying the Sei-shain (full-time employee) position. In the history of Japanese industrial relations, labor unions had long demanded that employers give union numbers the employment position known as Sei-shain.

 This demand was finally met after World WarⅡ. Nowadays, Sei-shain often means a full commitment to the company and long work hours. We need new and diverse definitions of Sei-shain status in order to achieve a better balance between work time and personal life.

The most important point is to give companies an incentive to reduce work hours.



Enactment and revision of domestic violence-related laws, and our task ahead in victim support

  Eriko HARADA

A law prohibiting domestic violence (known as the Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims) was enacted in October 2001, in line with an international movement demanding the protection of women against violence. After being partially revised in May 2004, this law became fully effective in December 2005.

Through the enactment and partial revision of this law as stated above, the support system for victims of domestic violence victims has significantly expanded. In particular, the police have shown a changed attitude, as evidence by the large increase in the number of arrests on charges of assault and other violent behavior.  Still, because the domestic violence law focuses on the protection of victims, victimized women and children are encouraged to leave the place where the abuser resides, even though few resources are available for these women to become truly independent, which is only possible by securing stable employment and a safe residence. Unfortunately, available support systems remain inadequate for victimized women and children who are often isolated within their community.

As the decentralization of government functions to local jurisdiction continues, each local government must address this independently, but none has yet to devise any new and viable policy. To completely eliminate as well as prevent any further occurrence of domestic violence, what is needed is not just securing a safe place for victimized women and children, but correcting the economic imbalance that exists between women and men in society, and establishing the civil rights of such minorities as foreigners, disabled people, and senior citizens within the community.



Comprehensive Research on Metropolis of Tokyo Policies toward People with Disabilities: Post-Graduation Career Options, Employment, and Social Welfare


The ratio of people with disabilities employed by corporations in Tokyo is not only far below the ratio mandated by law, but is also the worst among all 47 prefectures of Japan. Even a quick glance at this employment ratio is sufficient to realize that the work environment for people with disabilities in Tokyo must be very severe.

This paper first describes the situation regarding career opportunities in Tokyo for students graduating from schools for disabled children. As evidenced by these meager opportunities, few graduates succeed in finding work with corporations, and many find employment in vocational aid centers (where social welfare is provided).  Of these (vocational) aid centers, the most common are workshops for disabled persons.  Given these facts, the severe employment situation that they face is made very clear. The author explains how increasingly difficult it is to be hired by a corporation, how part-time employment is growing, how work hours are being reduced, and how people are employment is growing, how work hours are being reduced, and how people are working for lower wages.

This paper then gives an overview of the employment and social welfare support policies in Tokyo. The overview describes how Tokyo’s original employment promotion policies effectively aid the employment of disabled people, along with several problems being cited. Then the assertion is made that revised financial aid for these workshops for disabled persons is limiting the establishment of such workshops, and causing problems regarding how to secure careers for the growing number of graduates from schools for disabled children.

The income levels of disabled persons are extremely low, thus forcing them into financially difficult living conditions. The newly proposed national legislation runs the risk of limiting the use of workshops for disabled persons, and possibly causing an even bigger problem of reversing recent gains in the recognition of labor rights for disabled people.  Briefly looking at industry’s response to the employment of disabled people, Japan’s 1.8% legally mandated hiring ratio is significantly lower than the ratio enforced in countries like Germany and France. Regardless, at least 70% of companies in Tokyo fail to comply with the legally mandated hiring level. Tokyo is also encouraging the private sector outsourcing of facilities for disabled persons, but by worsening the work conditions of the workers, the lives and living conditions of disabled persons become even more vulnerable. The author provides a comprehensive analysis of Tokyo’s agenda for people with disabilities by raising the problems posed by Tokyo’s lifestyle support policies, policies for people with severe mental disorders, and other policies. In doing so, consideration is given to specific policies that local governments should pursue and how to stabilize an economic or social foothold for people with disabilities in order for them to earn a living.



Rationalization and the Situation of Workers in the Subcontractors of “New” iron and steel works

Shin’ichi UEHARA

In the 1990s, major Japanese iron and steel companies were forced to conduct large-scale rationalization due to declining steel material prices in the wake of ongoing globalization. A large proportion of workers in Japanese iron and steel industry are employed by subcontractors. Although these workers work in major steelworks, they are actually employed by another company that conducts continuous business with the steelmaker. These workers are known as Shagai-ko.

Shagai-ko previously handled simple, stained parts in the iron and steel production process. Now they work mainly with down stream of steel-making process, especially around the rolling mill. This paper clarifies the following three points :

First, the role of Shagai-ko has become more important quantitatively, but has changed little in terms of quality.

Secondly, their working environment and work conditions have not improved.

Thirdly, as more Shagai-ko are being brought into the steelworks, more rationalization is taking place within the subcontractors themselves, just like the steel companies. Consequently, more subcontractors are being formed and downsized by forcing fewer workers to do plural tasks. Given this rationalization, the gap between wages and working hours among subcontractors is widening.



A brief survey of studies on Japanese labor problems from 1945 to 1960


[1945-49] With Japan’s defeat in World WarⅡon August 15, 1945, Japanese capitalism entered the greatest period of economic and social crisis in its history. The production infrastructure of Japanese capitalism totally collapsed. Under such circumstances, labor organizations in the steel, chemical, electric machinery, and coal-mining industries became engaged in “the struggle to control production”.

It was then that Prof. Kazuo Ohkouchi of the University of Tokyo insisted that labor organizations should focus efforts on reconstructing the production infrastructure.

Shoujirou Ujihara, then a young assistant researcher at the university, argued that “the struggle to control production” was an attempt by workers so seize control of industry, and part of a social revolution. Mr. Yasoji Kazahaya, who had been banished from academia during the war, criticized the contention made by Prof. Ohkouchi as being similar to the organization of factories by the Nazis.

[1950] The Japanese Academy for Social Policy was reorganized in 1950. At that time, the period of postwar crisis had passed and the radical movement by militant workers had been crushed. Prof. Ohkouchi, Prof. Eitarou Hattori of the University of Tohoku, and Associate Prof. Eitarou Kishimoto of the University of Kyoto then engaged in discussions about the essence of social policy. However, these discussions were not nearly as important as those on “the struggle to control production”.

[1950-54] After Japanese capitalism rebounded in the early 1950s, Prof. Ohkouchi wrote about the “enterprise unions” in Japan that were organized on the basis of each enterprise. This was “the organization theory” of “enterprise unions”. Moreover, Prof. Ohkouchi insisted that this type of Japanese labor organization had been based on dekasegi workers (rural workers attracted to industrial urban centers in Japan), who had maintained economic relations with their paternal farming families. However, he had no evidence of such dekasegi workers. The data obtained from research conducted under the leadership of prof. Ohkouchi in 1953, involving about 9800 male workers belonging to large-scale heavy industries in the Tokyo-Yokohama industrial belt, showed that 68% of the workers had maintained no economic relationship with their paternal families (including paternal farming families).

[1955~] After 1955, the Japanese ecnomy rapidly expanded. Moreover, under the “shunto” spring wage negotiation system, wages were subsequently determined through collective bargaining. At that time, Prof. Shoujirou Ujihara of the University of Tokyo insisted on “the function theory” of Japanese “enterprise unions” in countering “the organization theory” stated by Prof. Ohkouchi. Moreover, the theory presented by Prof. Ujihara remained influential until the oil crisis in 1973.



Transformation of the perspective of labor research from the 1950 to the 1970s


In the 1950s, mainstream labor studies reflected a very pessimistic view about the developing trade union movement as a means of reform. Japanese society was still considered mired in a feudalistic mold whereby workers under feudalistic bondage had no independent will or ability to organize themselves into an influential socioeconomic power.

Conversely, a new perspective of labor studies evolved in the early 1960s, with great expectations for the role of organized labor in modernizing Japanese society and improving the living conditions of the working class. This new approach was based on a firm belief in the market economy and considered the Japanese working class mature enough to behave rationally and wisely in the market through trade and labor unions, thus improving their socioeconomic status in society. These expectations were apparently realized through the favorable economic environment for workers resulting from Japan’s unprecedented economic growth in the 1960s. Thus, organized labor expanded enormously during this period and their active strategy to increase wages was largely successful.

However, as the oil shocks of the mid-1970s seriously affected the global economy, organized labor in Japan changed its course and tried to protect employers by supporting corporate strategies for survival, even at the expense of union members. Many trade and labor unions voluntarily curtailed their demands for wage increases. The more serious issue facing labor was redundancy and how to reduce the workforce. This issue, however, did not develop into a highly social one that should have been widely discussed because labor leaders and management successfully cooperated in confining the problem to within the scope of individual company-level negotiations.

The victims of the resultant ‘restructuring’ were scattered throughout society and isolated, and thus could not collectively achieve recognition of their problem as a serious social issue.

Moreover, mainstream labor studies failed to address the problem of job security, as an important social issue, given the naive belief in and false perception of organized labor that were maintained until the late 1970s and in the 1980s. From the present standpoint, this narrow-sighted perspective reflected in labor studies during this period is fairly clear. To raise the issue of job security in labor studies, it became absolutely necessary to consider a new perspective that could no longer afford to overlook diversified labor-social movements that have developed since the 1980s, thus making a clear contrast with the declining power of organized labor and focusing on topics of study by closing monitoring such movements.



British Social Policy under the Blair Governments

 Michael HILL

This article first discusses the way the Labor Government led by Tony Blair since 1997 have tried to position themselves in a ‘third way’ relative to the traditional Left/Right argument. It is argued that whilst the rhetoric of the Government has suggested that it is engaged in a reversal of Conservative policies, the reality has been relatively little reorientation of social policy in the direction of greater generosity or greater equality. Any claim that the Blair government is engaged in a ‘new’ approach to social policy needs to be seen against the background of international comparisons in which the UK can still be identified as having a ‘liberal’ social policy regime.

The article then examines four aspects of Labour’s social policy in more detail: the social security and employment measures, pensions policy, health policy and adult social care policy.

In the field of social security the Government proclaimed ‘we will be the party of welfare reform’ but the combination of the commitment to a stable public expenditure programme and the tendency of social security costs to rise regardless of policy change has limited their room for manoeuvre. It has seen the solution of that dilemma in increased employment. In a context of favourable economic developments it has developed measures to support low paid work through tax credits and to stimulate labour market participation.

The Government has added to the complexities of the UK pensions system by encouraging higher dependence on the private market for the well off and increasing means tested support for the poor. The article argues that this is generating long-term problems for the system for which solutions are still being sought.

The National Health Service has been substantial injections of cash. This has led to improvements. Controversially the government has also continued the search initiated by the Conservatives to involve private partners in health care.

The main problems for adult social care are that the statutory element is still quite low relative to need and means tests force many to contribute substantial sums towards their costs. The issue has been further highlighted by the fact that whereas, in the past, many highly dependant elderly people occupied free beds in NHS hospitals, they are now expected instead to seek ‘care in the community’ to which these charging rules apply. These problems have not been solved, recommendations from a Royal Commission on the way forward were largely rejected on cost grounds.

It is thus concluded that overall the approach of the Blair Government has been a pragmatic one, institutional changes aiming to achieve a better service without any significant rise in public expenditure. Hence it makes little sense to describe this sequence of incremental system changes as a shift to a ‘third way’.



Tracing the Bargaining Process of the Child-care Leave Contract Concluded by the Japan Telecommunications Workers’ Union : “Family Responsibilities” and Women’s Labor in the 1960s


There has been much discussion regarding the measures required to disseminate child -care leave or family leave in the workplace, and correct gender disparities found in its application. However, “corporate climate,” which has been pointed out as a barrier to said objectives, has not been analyzed with sufficient attention given to the dynamics that constitute it in the workplace. More importantly, it is a fact that the multi-layered gender issue that is both institutionally and historically embedded in child-care leave in Japan has yet to be scrutinized.

This paper describes the bargaining process of the child-care leave contract negotiated by the Japan Telecommunications Workers’ Union (in 1965), representing the initial case of child-care leave in Japan. This momentous case has not been studied independently, even though it is referred to as the pioneering work-family challenge. Thus, with little known about its actual process, the background of this contract is perceived simply as a response to the needs of working women who numbers rapidly increased in 1960s. This perception is based only on the domestic gender division of labor.

With the main focus being on the forepart of the process or earlier discussions within the union, and with attention given to the gender dynamics among members of the workplace, this paper presents the following arguments. First, the concept and design of policy were devised from the idea of job security for telephone operators as a measure taken by the labor side to counter restructuring and technological innovations.

Secondly, what constituted “family responsibilities “ arose from motherhood ideology based on the modern family model that proliferated in the 1960s. Accordingly, the issue of leave itself has developed to include gender constrains within its application.



Migrant workers and domestic and care work in Italy : Trends after the Bossi-Fini Law in 2002


This paper suggests that the important factors in considering the feminization of domestic care service in Italy due to the cultural, political, and economic aspects of certain East European and Balkan countries.

In Italy, the growing numbers of irregular migrants and the labor market for such people have posed serious problems, especially since the late 1980s. After the mid-1990s, however, only a few researchers have pointed out the significant increase in irregular migrant workers performing domestic and care work since the true state of affairs regarding irregular or illegal migrant workers had not been visible from formal statistics.

In 2002, the Bossi-Fini Law that was mainly intended to restrict illegal migration by approved by the government (no.189 enacted on 30 July 2002). This law specifically establishes the fifth regularization program for illegal migrants. About 700,000 applications were received under this regularization program, although only 150,000 illegal migrants were identified that same year. Of these applications, 341,100 were from domestic and care workers, and 361,000 from other wage earners. This program has regularized more than 630,000 illegal migrants, with 43.5% coming from three East European and Balkan countries (Rumania, Ukraine, and Albania).

After this regularization program was implemented, there has been a trend toward “Feminization” and “Ethnicization” in the Italian labor market. Regarding domestic and care migrant workers in Italy, it can be said that the ethnicization caused by the enormous influx of illegal female migrant workers from East European and Balkan countries has also had a significant impact on the feminization of domestic care services.



The Changing Situation of Shopping Districts in Tokyo and the Targets of Industrial Promotion Policies : From a Survey on Actual Conditions of the Self-employed at Work and in Life

Yoshimitsu MIYADERA

This paper is intended to (1) survey certain aspects of shopping districts and the working and living conditions of self-employed workers in Tokyo, and (2) examine the effects of industrial policies instituted by the Tokyo metropolitan government during Governor Ishihara’s terms of office.

Historically, shopping districts have offered people not only a commercial marketplace but also an area where they can establish personal and social relationships. Although 20 percent of the nation’s total shopping districts are concentrated in the Tokyo area, the number has declined and the situation involving these districts has deteriorated in recent years.

The change is considered to be caused by (1) a reduced number of shopping districts, (2) a growing proportion of stores being closed, and (3) the recent predominance of restaurants and chain stores within former commercial districts.

The decline in shopping districts results from the decreasing numbers of self-employed and family business workers. They have faced such a difficult situation that they are being “forced” to work as employees, and not as self-employed, in order to earn a living.

The causes of this transition are thought to be (1) stagnant domestic consumption, and (2) recent business deregulation, such as the abolishment of the Large-Scale Retail Store Law (‘Daiten-Ho’). These factors also place workers in an economically vulnerable position.

The survey shows that self-employed in these areas are trying to cope with the hardships by discounting prices for commodities and expanding their hours of business. Consequently, they now have less time and energy for maintaining and reviving the traditional function that old Tokyo commercial districts had played for such a long time.

Meanwhile, the industrial policies instituted by the Tokyo metropolitan government might not be considered to achieve the goals actually expected by small-scale urban merchants. This failure is due to (1) the differential treatment of districts based on sales output, (2) an ineffective loan policy, and (3) a lack of social security for the self-employed. The combination of these factors results in a regrettable situation that deprives people of the non-business-related, personal enjoyment that old Tokyo shopping districts once provided.