Welfare through Work

Welfare through Work: Conservative Ideas, Partisan Dynamics, and Social Protection in Japan

Mari Miura
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Welfare through Work
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6592-5
    Subjects: 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. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. A Note on Conventions
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Japanese society has long been considered egalitarian. High economic growth and relatively equitable distribution were among the most conspicuous characteristics of the postwar Japanese political economy, and their combined success brought the “Japanese model” under scrutiny throughout the world, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s. Where other affluent democracies suffered from slow economic recovery and mass unemployment after the oil crises of the 1970s, Japan enjoyed steady growth and low unemployment, thereby ensuring social and political stability. The success story of the Japanese economy was well researched worldwide and analyzed as a model of development. The lure of the...

  8. 1 Welfare through Work and the Gendered Dual System
    (pp. 12-29)

    Employment protection is the core of the social protection system in Japan. This is a simple enough claim, but one that requires theoretical justification and situation in a comparative framework. This chapter discusses the basic traits of the Japanese social protection system from a comparative perspective and demonstrates that it can be characterized as a system of “welfare through work,” where employment maintenance policies functionally substitute for income maintenance policies. While the government’s social spending has generally been low by international standards and redistribution through taxes and social contributions has played only a marginal role in social protection, high employment...

  9. 2 Situating Japan’s Social Protection System in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 30-37)

    This chapter provides a brief theoretical discussion illustrating how my concept of welfare through work accurately characterizes Japan’s social protection system by situating it in the welfare states literature. In so doing, I demonstrate the limitations and possibilities of “regime theory,” thereby emphasizing the role of ideas and partisan dynamics.

    Gøsta Esping-Andersen’s (1990) seminal work categorizing welfare regimes provides an effective theoretical tool for the study of welfare states. Despite evident shortcomings in his concepts and methods, his typology has been repeatedly employed in the literature on welfare states. Esping-Andersen claims that welfare states can be categorized into three distinct...

  10. 3 The Conservative Vision and the Politics of Work and Welfare
    (pp. 38-64)

    We now turn to the questions of why and how Japan developed a social protection system based on welfare through work. I take the position that the ideology and vision of the governing party—the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan’s case—strongly affected the way in which the welfare state was designed and constructed. However, two caveats are necessary here. First, a political party does not subscribe to a single coherent set of ideas and values. Multiple streams of ideas coexist under the umbrella of a single party’s philosophy and sometimes compete with each other, generating ideational development and...

  11. 4 Reforming the Labor Markets
    (pp. 65-92)

    Since the late 1990s, the Japanese labor market has undergone a major transformation. The once-feted system of lifetime employment has been replaced by flexible employment and more than a third of the workforce has been relegated to the status of non-regular worker, receiving lower wages, fewer benefits, and fewer opportunities for promotion, all at greater risk of dismissal. Conversely, regular workers are now granted enhanced employment security, at least with respect to legal protection. These changes beg the following questions. What sort of labor market reform has been implemented and how has it changed Japan’s labor markets? To what extent...

  12. 5 Who Wants What Reform?
    (pp. 93-113)

    The previous chapter showed that given the significant disparities between regular and non-regular workers in terms of wages, career opportunities, employment protection, and social security, the increase in numbers of non-regular workers has resulted in rising levels of poverty in Japanese society. As the replacement of regular workers by non-regular workers proceeded unchecked, the myth of lifetime employment was finally debunked. (The truth has always been that bona fide “lifetime” employment had been granted only to male workers in large companies and that actual job security of this group of workers was more fluid that the term implied.) The Japanese...

  13. 6 The Neoliberal Agenda and the Diet Veto
    (pp. 114-140)

    The transformation of the Japanese business community accounts for the origin and persistent momentum of neoliberal labor market reform. However, politics does not merely reflect the policy preferences of powerful actors. It also has its own logic and dynamics. Although there were occasions when more radical ideas than those proposed by employers made it onto the policy agenda, the actual content of reform was usually much more modest than the initial proposals. The struggle for power between political actors greatly affected the way in which policy agendas were set and deals made. This chapter reveals the nature of the political...

  14. 7 The Double Movement in Japanese Politics
    (pp. 141-155)

    The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won the general election of 2009, which led to the first power alternation in postwar Japan based on the result of a popular election. This chapter looks at how the DPJ rose to power, how the power alternation changed the dynamism of party competition, and what new ideas the DPJ brought with respect to the Japanese social protection system.

    The DPJ’s victory should be understood as a manifestation of what Karl Polanyi (1944) has called “double movement.” Polanyi argued that free markets “could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 156-164)

    In this concluding chapter, I take stock of the key findings of the preceding chapters and elaborate on the theoretical implications of the role of ideas and political parties in the process of forming and reforming the social protection system. This book has argued that Japan’s social protection system is best characterized by the concept of welfare through work, where employment maintenance substitutes for income maintenance. The mechanism of the gendered dual system sustains welfare through work regime. This social protection system came into being as an outcome of the interplay between ideas and partisan competition.

    Scholars disagree over the...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 165-186)
  17. References
    (pp. 187-200)
  18. Index
    (pp. 201-206)