High economic growth and relatively equitable distribution were
among the most conspicuous characteristics of the postwar Japanese
political economy. The lure of the Japanese model, however, has
faded since the 1990s. Growth is in short supply and equality a
thing of the past. In Welfare through Work, Mari Miura
looks in depth at Japan's social protection system as a factor in
the contemporary malaise of the Japanese political economy.
The Japanese social protection system should be understood as a
system of "welfare through work," Miura suggests, because
employment protection has functionally substituted for income
maintenance. A gendered dual system in the labor market allowed a
high degree of labor market flexibility, which enabled Japan to
achieve high employment rates as well as strong legal protections
for regular workers. In recent years, conservatives gradually
replaced the productivism and cooperatism that had resulted from
earlier party politics with neoliberalism, which, in turn, hampered
the effectiveness of the welfare through work system.
In Miura's view, the dynamics of partisan competition fostered
ideational renewal, just as the political visions and ideologies of
the governing party strongly affected the design of the social
protection system. In the scenario Miura describes, the partisan
dynamics since the 1990s resulted in the policy change that further
undermined the social protection system, and the ensuing disruption
has been felt throughout Japan.
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