Inequality in the Workplace

Inequality in the Workplace: Labor Market Reform in Japan and Korea

Jiyeoun Song
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt5hh0qp
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  • Book Info
    Inequality in the Workplace
    Book Description:

    The past several decades have seen widespread reform of labor markets across advanced industrial countries, but most of the existing research on job security, wage bargaining, and social protection is based on the experience of the United States and Western Europe. In Inequality in the Workplace, Jiyeoun Song focuses on South Korea and Japan, which have advanced labor market reform and confronted the rapid rise of a split in labor markets between protected regular workers and underprotected and underpaid nonregular workers. The two countries have implemented very different strategies in response to the pressure to increase labor market flexibility during economic downturns. Japanese policy makers, Song finds, have relaxed the rules and regulations governing employment and working conditions for part-time, temporary, and fixed-term contract employees while retaining extensive protections for full-time permanent workers. In Korea, by contrast, politicians have weakened employment protections for all categories of workers.

    In her comprehensive survey of the politics of labor market reform in East Asia, Song argues that institutional features of the labor market shape the national trajectory of reform. More specifically, she shows how the institutional characteristics of the employment protection system and industrial relations, including the size and strength of labor unions, determine the choice between liberalization for the nonregular workforce and liberalization for all as well as the degree of labor market inequality in the process of reform.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7101-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Terms
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    Haken no Hinkaku(Haken’s Dignity), a popular Japanese TV drama that aired in 2007, portrayed the work life of female dispatched workers (orhaken shain). Dispatched workers are a new sort of worker in Japan, hired on short-term employment contracts and through private employment agencies. As the TV drama illustrated, an increasing proportion of the female clerical workforce in the Japanese labor market has been staffed by non-regular workers, such as dispatched workers, but the hiring of non-regular workers is not a phenomenon unique to the clerical sector. Mostobasan(middle-aged females) working in retail chain stores, like Daiei supermarkets,...

  7. 1 JAPANESE AND KOREAN LABOR MARKETS AND SOCIAL PROTECTIONS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
    (pp. 19-45)

    During the 1990s and 2000s, Japan and Korea promoted labor market reforms that differed substantially from those of other advanced industrialized countries, and despite being a somewhat similar pair of market economies in many important ways, they approached labor market reform with two different strategies and with two dissimilar sets of consequences. This chapter elaborates three key institutional aspects of the labor market and social protection—employment protection, industrial relations and wage bargaining, and social protection programs—in Japan and Korea in comparison with those in other advanced industrialized countries. In particular, it shows the ways in which a set...

  8. 2 THE POLITICS OF LABOR MARKET REFORM IN HARD TIMES
    (pp. 46-66)

    That countries adopt diverging paths of labor market reform raises an important question for policy makers as well as scholars, considering the frequency of global and national economic crises around the world and the necessity of reform for economic adjustment. This chapter focuses on the institutional arrangements of the labor market to explain the political process and outcome of labor market reform. It argues that the features of the employment protection system determine the patterns of reform and that the configurations of industrial relations shape the trajectories of labor market inequality and dualism.

    The first section analyzes three possible explanations...

  9. 3 THE INSTITUTIONAL ORIGINS OF THE LABOR MARKET AND SOCIAL PROTECTIONS IN JAPAN AND KOREA
    (pp. 67-83)

    Japanese and Korean labor markets and social protections were established during the period of rapid industrialization.¹ Although this book does not focus exclusively on the path-dependent institutional trajectory of labor market reform, it is still important to examine the conditions under which certain labor market and social protections were introduced because these institutional arrangements have had crucial consequences for recent reform by shaping the interests and strategies of reform actors.

    The first three sections below describes the origins and development of the labor market and social protections in postwar Japan, with an analytical focus on employment protection, industrial relations and...

  10. 4 JAPAN: LIBERALIZATION FOR OUTSIDERS, PROTECTION FOR INSIDERS
    (pp. 84-118)

    The 1990s were a critical turning point for Japan, a country whose economic system was centered on the nonmarket-based strategic coordination of capitalism.¹ After the bursting of the asset bubble in the early 1990s, the Japanese economy plunged into a protracted recession and its state-led developmental strategy combined with nonmarket-based strategic coordination, long seen as the model of Japan’s postwar economic “miracle,” turned out to be problem-ridden. In addition, the collapse of the conservative political system in 1993, dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had ruled Japan since 1955, heightened political uncertainty in elections. Although the LDP was...

  11. 5 KOREA: LIBERALIZATION FOR ALL, EXCEPT FOR CHAEBŎL WORKERS
    (pp. 119-161)

    In the wake of the 1987 democratic transition and the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Korea promoted a series of labor market reforms in order to transform its rigid labor market institutions into more flexible ones.¹ Unlike Japan and other CMEs that focused on liberalization of the labor market for outsiders, Korea prioritized comprehensive reform for all workers. Ironically, this comprehensive reform furthered labor market inequality and the segmentation of the dualistic labor market, as opposed to encouraging a narrowing of the economic gap between insiders and outsiders. Why did Korea adopt comprehensive labor market reform for all workers in response...

  12. 6 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 162-178)

    During the past few decades, labor market reform has been one of the most controversial political agendas in advanced industrialized countries afflicted with economic downturns, high unemployment rates, intense market competition, and de-industrialization. Policy makers have considered labor market reform—represented by deregulation and liberalization of rules and regulations on employment contracts and working conditions and hours—crucial to bring forth a quick economic turnaround and to create more jobs.

    Despite similar trajectories in the increase of labor market flexibility, the patterns of reform have diverged remarkably across countries. Some have adopted labor market liberalization for employing outsiders (e.g., part-time,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 179-200)
  14. References
    (pp. 201-222)
  15. Index
    (pp. 223-230)