Previoues Entries

  • HOME
  • Previoues Entries
  • Vol. 17 The Journal of Social Policy and Labor Studies (Shakai-seisaku Gakkai shi)

Previoues Entries

Vol. 17 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 District Committees to Community Welfare Volunteers:  Public Assistance Policy in Historical Perspective

Hirotake YAZAWA

The aim of this article is to propose some ideas to put the reform of the public assistance policy of Japan in historical perspective. The public assistance policy termed Kyuugo-hou (Poor Relief Law) was established on a large scale in 1932. Because the number of households receiving income support in the prewar period was far smaller than that in the postwar period, it has been commonly believed that the policy provided only limited relief for poor households. However, the system generated positive policy impacts in prewar Japan. First, there were fewer foundlings (street children) in metropolitan areas than in other countries in early stages of economic development. Secondly, property owners took the lead in the district committees (houmen-iin) when they supported the system, while neighborhood associations were successively founded in the 1920s.

Immediately after World War Ⅱ, the public assistance system was drastically reformed by GHQ. The name of houmen-iin was changed to community welfare volunteers (minsei-iin). Welfare offices took over the role of houmen-iin ; for example, the offices introduced a means test to measure income. Minsei-iin had a reduced responsibility under the new policy, but still continued to play an important role in caring for the poor. Neighborhood associations were the source of minsei-iin in the postwar period as well as the prewar period.

These days, households receiving income support have been increasing in number and staying longer in supported status because of the depression. In addition, elderly persons who are unable to work and single-female-parent households account for a large proportion of households receiving income support. It is well known that welfare offices arbitrarily apply official criteria when deciding which poor recipients qualify for benefits. From a long-term perspective, the following four reforms are necessary to the public assistance system.

1. The minimum standard of living should be decided not only by flow-oriented information (e. g., total income) but also stock-oriented information (e. g., ownership and use of assets) from the viewpoint of relative deprivation.

2. Counseling to recipients on public assistance is needed to shorten the period during which they remain dependent on public support. Such recipients include people whose normal relationships have been destroyed by heavy debt, domestic violence, and other severe problems.

3. The system should provide incentives to youth to seek employment. Particularly important are NEETs, whose number is believed to be still increasing.

4. Policies targeting the elderly and the handicapped should be improved through better involvement of neighborhood associations and NPOs.

Systems such as neighborhood associations, which have been in operation since the prewar era, have continued to function effectively in local communities, and should contribute greatly to making public assistance policy more effective in the future.



Rethinking the Poverty Line in Japan


We hear that there have been rapid increases in economic and social inequalities in Japan. This is a consequence of the long depression of the 1990s. However, we also experienced various economic and social inequalities prior to the decade of the 1990s. Needless to say, various social policies were employed to tackle such problems, and for this reason the inequality issue has been a familiar one to social scientists. Although we pay attention to new inequalities, it is necessary to grasp them in the context of the history of social policy in Japan. If we do so, we can better recognize the differences between new and old inequalities.

This paper deals with the poverty line issues in Japan after the Second World War. Certainly, the high rate of economic growth drastically changed Japanese society and seemed to reduce poverty. Throughout the early postwar era, the social security system was expanded through the extension of social insurance coverage and benefits. It was enough that we believed that economic and social inequalities would gradually decrease. In the early 1980s, the central government stressed the need to establish a national minimum as a safety net. It is not unusual for nations to think that the poverty problem lessens as the percentage of beneficiaries on public assistance falls. In other words, we can see declining poverty as the result of social policy.

However, the 1990s constituted a turning point in Japan. From the second half of the decade, the ratio of persons receiving public assistance began to increase. Moreover, the national pension system caused a fiscal crisis. Finally, because of the increasing numbers of part-time workers, the minimum wage became a prominent issue. Thus, in the 1990s, debate about the poverty line spread to the fields of public assistance, public pensions, and the minimum wage. It is difficult to determine an appropriate poverty line due to differences in benefit levels by family size, age, and so on. Thus, we need to establish a new standard in benefit levels. This paper aims to make proposals regarding current issues in social policy through the insights gained from examining the history of poverty line determination in Japan.



Inequality in Education and the Rise of “Learning Capitalist Society”

Takehiko KARIYA

A number of advanced countries, including Japan, are conducting neo-liberal education reforms such as the decentralization and devolution of control over education, privatization, school choice, and national testing. In addition, economic globalization and the rise of the “knowledge-based” economy may make education an important arena of socio-economic policy as governments seek to enhance human capital and individuals’ employability, and to provide equal opportunity in life chances.

In this paper, I argue that those changes promote a shift of human capital formation toward the rise of “learning capitalism”. In Japan, especially, this shift coincides with the transformation from the “Japanese Mode of Credential Society” to the “Learning Capitalist Society”, where learning skills and competences become core mechanisms to form, accumulate, and arrange human capital. Previously, under the Japanese mode of credential society, career paths were seen as simple and straightforward. Success in entrance examinations was thought to be the main route to enter good schools and universities, then to get into good workplaces and lead happy lives. Being good at memorizing school knowledge was seen a key factor for this success story. Upon getting into good jobs, which usually meant working for large companies, employees form prestigious universities were given more opportunities to pursue advancement. Their learning skills, sometimes called “trainability”, might have played an important role behind the scenes, but their importance was not clearly recognized.

The Japanese mode of credential society changed and declined during the 1990s. This transformation was caused by changes in labor markets and in education. Acquiring learning skills and competences took the place of memorizing knowledge. Now both in the workplace and in school, people are expected to master advanced learning skills and competences to keep up with rapid changes in technology and society. People are also required to pursue lifelong learning. In addition, they are expected to become ‘clever’ investors in choosing what, how, and when they should learn in order to maximize their human capital. In other words, learning skills and competences have become “capital” in this society.

However, the distribution of learning skills and competences among students is not equal. In the paper, using survey results, I show that they are unequally distributed among children from different family backgrounds. I then argue that the recent decentralization of education funding and neo-liberal education reforms such as the introduction of voucher systems will increase inequality in learning capital accumulation.



From Widgets to Digits : Legal Regulation of the Changing Contract of Employment

Katherine V. W. STONE    

In this article, Professor Katherine Stone describes how employers in the United States have built a new employment relationship―a “new deal at work”―that differs from that which pertained for the past one hundred years. In the past, employers organized their workforces into “internal labor markets” in which they encouraged employees to stay in their jobs long-term by implicitly promising them lifetime employment, orderly promotion opportunities, generous health insurance and reliable retirement benefits. In recent decades, employers have abandoned their commitment to long-term relationships, and have instead instituted fundamental reforms in order to gain flexibility in the face of heightened international competition. The “new deal at work” involves an emphasis on employability rather than job security, a flattening of hierarchy, an implicit promise of training and networking in lieu of promotions, and an expectation that employees will manage their own careers.

Professor Stone argues that the new employment relationship shifts onto employees many risks that were previously borne by the firm. These risks include the possibility of job loss, wage uncertainty, loss of the value of labor market skills, loss of health insurance and pensions, loss of legal protections, and the undermining of labor unions. She shows that the U. S. labor and employment laws were built upon the assumption of a long-term employment relationship between employees and firms and thus they need to be revised to meet the needs of the new employment relationships.

Professor Stone argues that the new workplace has created new types of problems for workers, including new types of employment discrimination, the dissolution of employee retirement and health benefits, and the deterioration of employee representation. In addition, she maintains that public policy needs to focus on the problems created by the career transitions that most people will experience several times in their working lives. Professor Stone offers proposals for revising our labor and employment laws in order to enable workers to survive and thrive in these new, boundary-less workplaces.



Labor Law Reform and Employment Systems : The Case of Dismissal Regulations in 2003

Michio NITTA

The basic argument in this paper is that while the Japanese economy is under pressure from globalizing markets very similar to that experienced by the United States, the actors’ responses to this pressure with relation to employment relations are significantly different. For the U. S. case, I draw on the eloquent description in Prof. Katherine Stone’s book, From Widgets to Digits.

Pushed by economic and political pressures and pursuing the agenda of “Reform,” the Koizumi government introduced a bill to the Diet in 2003 to revise the Labor Standards Law. Opposition parties criticized the bill in the Diet, partly as a result of lobbying from unions. In the end, a compromise was reached. A new clause inserted into the Law stated that, “Employers may not discharge employees without just cause. ” Legally, this meant that the essence of current dismissal regulations based on case law was incorporated into a statute. The attempt to significantly change dismissal regulations ended up returning the status quo.

To correctly understand the political drama on dismissal regulations in 2003, it is particularly important to investigate in what direction the mainstream business leaders have tried to lead other employers through the channels of various business organizations. I hypothesize that their strategy in employment relations can best be characterized as a ‘dualist approach,’ keeping core employees as ‘lifers’ and surrounding them with various types of flexibly employed workers. The strategy called ‘Portfolio Employment’ was laid out in the well-known white paper titled ‘Japanese-style Management in the New Era’ published in 1995 by Nikkeiren, the national employer organization, before it merged with Keidanren. The ‘Portfolio Employment’ strategy envisions the following three groups of workers in a company.

1) Core workers, termed the ‘Long-term Competence Accumulation Group’

2) Peripheral workers, termed the ‘Flexible Employment Group’

3) In-between workers, termed the ‘Professional/Specialist Group’

This is a clear expression of the ‘Dualist Approach,’ which is different from the ‘Boundary-less Workplace Approach’ in large corporations in the U. S. as described in Prof. Stone’s book.



Recent Wage Reforms and Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value in Japan

Masumi MORI

Japanese companies facing intensifying global competition and seeking to reduce total personnel costs began a rapid shift to performance-based pay and promotion systems from the mid-1990’s.

The aims of this paper are to examine trends in wage system reforms and to explain the movement toward the realization of ILO Convention No. 100, the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value, in Japan.

We can characterize recent wage reforms as a change from the work qualifications system to the performance-based personnel system, though the contents of reform vary by company.

Wage reform consists of three main components.  The first is a change of the grade system that determines an employee’s treatment. The second is a change in the basic salary, from pay determination based on age and performance evaluations to a role- and job-based pay system. The third is a change in the individual evaluation system that determines qualification grades and individual employees’ wages.

This paper examines the wage systems of five Japanese companies. As is clear from “Japanese-type job-based pay”, the term applied to these new systems, they are not equal pay for equal value work systems.

On the other hand, two industrial unions have adopted the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. One is the All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union, which experimented with “putting into practice equal pay for work of equal value” for civil servants’ job evaluations in one city in 2003.

Rengo, the national labor union federation, promotes equal pay for work of equal value as a means of achieving equality for part-time workers. In 2005, Rengo started up a job evaluation system to achieve equal pay for work of equal value.

The findings from the analysis of this paper are as follows. One is that we should base more comprehensive job evaluations on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in order to achieve fairness. The second is that labor unions should more actively attempt to implement fair and equal job evaluations by using precise job classifications.



Gendering Man : Necessities and Possibilities in Current Japanese Gender Studies


Studies on men and masculinities have drawn increasing attention in Japanese gender studies since the end of the 20th century. There has been a yawning gap between the examination of women and that of men from gender perspectives, despite the approximately 20-year history of gender studies in Japan, of which studies on men and masculinities are an integral part. This paper seeks to explore the reason why Japanese gender studies have failed to develop critical studies on men and masculinities, which concern the relationship between patriarchy and men.

The answer to this question lies in the course of the development of Japanese gender studies as a whole. There has been little concern with ‘subject’ or ‘agency’ matters, which require empirical research on everyday life and culture. In the 1980’s, when gender studies emerged in Japan, Japanese academics, including feminists, tended to neglect diversity within society, while feminists in English-speaking countries of the same period confronted the diversity of women. Thus, Japanese academics lost sight of the need to explore subjective meanings or interpretations of people in their everyday lives.

Feminism requires studies on men and masculinities for two reasons. Firstly, the studies help correct misunderstandings about the concept of gender, particularly the way that many academics misconstrue gender as concerning only women’s problems. Secondly, the core component of patriarchy is deeply held by men and associated with masculinities.

We must launch critical studies on men and masculinities, while reflecting on the history of gender studies in Japan.



Problems concerning recent labor policies for the mentally disabled

 Junko EMOTO

Due to the rapid globalization caused by structural industrial change, the prolonged economic recession, ageing populations and declining birthrates, it has become necessary to review and redirect social policies all over the world. In Japan as well, social welfare policies have been radically transformed from policies based on social compensation such as income security to those focusing on social integration with an emphasis on independence. Labor policies for mentally disabled people have been greatly influenced by this transformation.

Since the late 1990s, the number of labor policies for mentally disabled people has been increasing, and during the present decade the government’s structural reforms have brought the multiplication of these policies. However, due to the rapid implementation of these policies and the resulting lack of discussion, they are characterized by ambiguity regarding conceptual definition. Consequently, the current system is not one based on social models wherein the mentally disabled can choose what they desire according to their needs. The conditions of mentally disabled people vary, depending on their situations and environments; therefore, a system that is not based on social models creates various problems. Moreover, “mental disability,” unlike other types of disabilities, develops during one’s working years and occurs in relation to one’s labor. Therefore, establishing a labor system wherein mentally disabled people can work in a normal manner despite disabilities is a step forward in establishing a system in which all workers can work safely.

Section 1 of this paper confirms the fact that labor policies for disabled people, like general labor policies, have been influenced by economic and financial conditions, and that those for mentally disabled people have developed likewise. Section 2 shows that one of the reasons that these policies have multiplied is that the government has aimed at reducing the budget for social welfare. On the basis of this understanding, Section 3 points out that the labor policies for mentally disabled people are not in accordance with international trends, targets, or theories. Section 4 proves that the policies are too unrealistic to have much effect, the basic reason for this being inadequately formed policy ideals. Therefore, policy ideals need to be discussed early on to heighten policy effectiveness.



The Attitudes of Part-time Workers’ Union Leaders towards Participating in Enterprise Unions in Japan


Although the number of part-time workers in the Japanese labor market continues to grow, for a long time part-time workers were not allowed to join enterprise-based unions. Nowadays, the proportion of part-time workers in unions is gradually increasing, especially in the retail industry, due to the unions’ need to maintain membership. But unionizing part-time workers could be seen by managers as representing a step towards more constructive relations with part-time workers. This paper examines the leaders of unions with part-time workers, and their attempts to improve part-time workers’ working conditions. The findings are based on 10 in-depth interviews with the leaders of retail industry unions that include part-time workers.

The paper concludes that leaders of unions that include part-time workers (who are all female in these cases) have strongly internalized gender role norms. I argue that this internalization occurs because the women workers are treated primarily as wives/mothers with family responsibilities, and only secondly as union members and workers. They willingly accept subordinate positions to their husbands at home, to regular (full-time) workers at the workplace, and to regular union members in the union, but nonetheless express satisfaction with their situation. My findings suggest that even if the work conditions of part-time workers have more or less improved since their inclusion into the enterprise unions, union leaders representing part-time workers are less likely to push for improving part-time workers’ working conditions if they do not let go of the gender role norms existing in enterprise unions.



Microfinance by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in the USA and the UK

Takashi KOSEKI

Microfinance is regarded as a development method for developing countries. However, it has also been introduced in developed countries, including the USA, the UK, and continental EU countries. Now it is regarded as an effective method for solving the problem of social exclusion. One of the major agents of microfinance in the developed countries is Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

In this article, the author clarifies the present conditions of micro-finance in the US and the UK by focusing on the experiences of CDFIs.

CDFIs are financial institutions that target residents in deprived areas, the handicapped, micro-enterprises, voluntary associations and social enterprises. Why?

Because these people are unable to borrow from commercial banks.  CDFIs have grown rapidly since the 1990s.

The significant features of CDFIs are that they (1) provide outside resources and (2) promote financial social inclusion. Credit unions cannot deal with non-members’ assets, but CDFIs can under preferable conditions. Microfinance in the developed countries is understood as tackling social exclusion, especially for the disadvantaged (such as the unemployed, ethnic minorities or the handicapped), whereas microfinance in the developing countries basically seeks to improve the living conditions of vast number of residents in rural areas.

The role of CDFIs as money providers is often said to be quite important for disadvantaged people who want to start micro-enterprises or build homes in order to live independently.

In the USA, the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) helps microfinance institutions raise private funds, but there is no statute like the CRA in the UK. Most such institutions in the UK still rely on public funds.

CDFIs should build up their competitiveness in managing finance, for most of them lack skill in this area.

Researchers of microfinance often insist that microfinance institutions should pursue sustainable development without relying on public grants. However, the condition of CDFIs in these developed countries is far from being able to promote sustainable development. Public funding and tax credits as well as private contributions are still needed.


The National Minimum of Living Level in China


China began implementing economic reforms in 1978, and creation of a socialist market economy was formally proposed as an aim of economic reform in 1993. The social market economy aims to make all citizens prosperous, but in reality the disparities between the rich and the poor have grown larger. For a long time, poverty in China was commonly regarded as a rural issue, but with the accelerated reform of State-Owned Enterprises, the number of poor people in urban areas began increasing in the latter half of the 1990s. Because of this situation, the Minimal Living Security Scheme was promulgated in 1999.

This paper will focus on the following issues.

First, the Minimal Living Security Scheme, which supports a minimum standard of living, is explained and the present situation is described. The guaranteed standards of different provinces are compared, and the current minimum living standard guarantees in China are shown to be too low to effectively guarantee basic living requirements. In other words, the guaranteed standards are not sufficient to support physical existence. Moreover, according to several surveys, it is certain that the urban poor who received social assistance from the Minimal Living Security Scheme did not receive enough money to live on.

Second, the income and expenditures of urban households are analyzed to show the details and point out the problems of the urban poor. It is shown that expenditures for utilities, education and social insurance fees have become a large burden for the urban poor. Further, the income gap has a strong impact on lifestyle; as a result, the urban poor have to subsist at a level much below the average. This means it is necessary to reduce these expenditures in view of the national minimum livelihood level in China.

Since 1986, the social security system in China has been reformed by establishing old age, unemployment and medical insurance systems. But given the increasing number of urban poor and also the existence of a large number of rural poor, it can be said that China should place emphasis on a public assistance system such as the Minimal Living Security Scheme. And the system as such should be reconsidered and expanded. First of all, as shown above, the guaranteed standard of the Minimal Living Security Scheme is insufficient and should therefore be raised.