This page intentionally left blank A Sociology of Work in Japan What shapes the decisions of employees to work in Japan? The authors of this comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the relationship between work and society in Japan argue that individual decisions about work can only be understood by considering the larger social context. Many factors combine to affect such choices, including the structuring of labor markets, social policy at the national and meso level and, of course, global in? uences, which have come increasingly to impinge on the organization of work and life generally.
The analysis asks why the Japanese work such long hours, and why they are so committed to their ? rms, if this is indeed the case. By considering labor markets, social policy, and relationships between labor and management, the book offers penetrating insights into contemporary Japanese society and glimpses of what might happen in the future. Underlying the discussion is a challenge to the celebration of Japanese management practices which has dominated the literature for the last three decades.
This is an important and groundbreaking book for students of sociology and economics. ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? is Professor of Japanese Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University. His publications include Images of Japanese Society: A Study in the Construction of Social Reality (1986). ? ??? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? is Professor of Sociology at Waseda University, Tokyo. He is the author and editor of many books including Enterprise Unionism in Japan (1991) and The Human Face of Industrial Con? ict in Post-war Japan (1999).
Contemporary Japanese Society Editor: Yoshio Sugimoto, La Trobe University Advisory Editors: Harumi Befu, Stanford University Roger Goodman, Oxford University Michio Muramatsu, Kyoto University Wolfgang Seifert, Universit? t Heidelberg a Chizuko Ueno, University of Tokyo Contemporary Japanese Society provides a comprehensive portrayal of modern Japan through the analysis of key aspects of Japanese society and culture, ranging from work and gender politics to science and technology. The series offers a balanced yet interpretive approach.
Books are designed for a wide range of readers, from undergraduate beginners in Japanese studies to scholars and professionals. D. P. Martinez (ed. ) The Worlds of Japanese Popular Culture 0 521 63128 9 hardback 0 521 63729 5 paperback Kaori Okano and Motonori Tsuchiya Education in Contemporary Japan: Inequality and Diversity 0 521 62252 2 hardback 0 521 62686 2 paperback Morris Low, Shigeru Nakayama and Hitoshi Yoshioka Science, Technology and Society in Contemporary Japan 0 521 65282 0 hardback 0 521 65425 4 paperback Roger Goodman (ed. Family and Social Policy in Japan: Anthropological Approaches 0 521 81571 1 hardback 0 521 01635 5 paperback Yoshio Sugimoto An Introduction to Japanese Society (2nd edn) 0 521 82193 2 hardback 0 521 52925 5 paperback Vera Mackie Feminism in Modern Japan: Citizenship, Embodiment and Sexuality 0 521 82018 9 hardback 0 521 52719 8 paperback Nanette Gottlieb Language and Society in Japan 0 521 82577 6 hardback 0 521 53284 1 paperback A Sociology of Work in Japan
Ross Mouer Monash University and Kawanishi Hirosuke Waseda University cambridge university press Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cb2 2ru, UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York www. cambridge. org Information on this title: www. cambridge. org/9780521651202 © Ross Mouer and Kawanishi Hirosuke 2005 This book is in copyright.
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Contents List of ? gures List of tables Preface Note on transliteration, romanization, and translation List of abbreviations Part I: A context for studying work page vii viii xi xvii xx The Japanese at work 2 Toward a sociology of work in Postwar Japan 3 Competing models for understanding work in Japan Part II: The commitment to being at work 4 Hours of work, labor-force participation and the work ethic Part III: Processing labor through Japan’s labor markets 5 Change and challenge in the labor market 6 Segmentation of the labor market Part IV: The broader social policy context for understanding choice at work in Japan 7 From labor policy to social policy: a framework for understanding labor process in Japan at the national level 8 Social security and safety nets 24 51 69 97 117 145 178 v vi Contents Part V: The power relations shaping the organization of work in Japan 9 The state of the union movement in Japan 10 Management organizations and the interests of employers Part VI: The future 253 264 296 300 199 229 11 The future of work in Japan References Author index General index Figures 5. 1 The structuring of the labor market in Japan, entry into its segments and paths for downward mobility (circa 1990) page 98 5. 2 Strategies used by ? ms to reduce labor costs by the severity of the recession and the number of employees needing to be retrenched 108 6. 1 The segmented labor force in Japan’s large ? rms 137 6. 2 The emerging labor market in Japan (circa 2000) 138 9. 1 The three tiers of organized labor in Japan 205 9. 2 A genealogy of the postwar labor movement in Japan 206 9. 3 The structuring of the union movement with competing enterprise unions 212 vii Tables 2. 1 4. 1 4. 2 4. 3 4. 4 4. 5 4. 6 4. 4. 8 4. 9 4. 10 4. 11 4. 12 4. 13 4. 14 5. 1 5. 2 Approaches to understanding labor processes and the organization of work in Japan page 26 International comparison of weekly hours of work for production workers in manufacturing 71 Annual hours of work in twelve countries: 1988–99 72 International groupings by annual hours of work 73 Hours of work based on the NHK surveys on the uses of time in Japan, 1990 and 2000 74 The implementation of the two-day weekend by ? m size, 1994 77 Monthly standard hours of work, overtime, and total hours of work in Japan, 1960–2001 78 Total annual hours of work and the percentage worked as overtime by ? rm size, 1960–2000 80 Bonus payments as a multiple of monthly salaries in non-agricultural industries excluding services, 1955–2000 81 The average number of hours spent commuting, 1990 83 Percentage distribution of the labor force by commuting time in twelve countries, 1988 84 International comparison of working days lost to industrial disputes in the early 1990s 86 The accrual and use of annual leave, 2001 87 Comparative ? ures on labor-force participation for six countries in the early 1990s 90 Real difference in hours of work per person in the population, circa 1992–3 92 Labor-force participation for males and females in Japan, 1955–2000 101 Male and female labor-force participation rates by age group, 1990 and 2001 102 viii List of tables ix 5. 3 Percentage of ? rms using different means of reducing their labor costs in four countries in the late 1990s 5. 4 The effects of introducing a variable workweek scheme on wage costs: some hypothetical cases 5. 5 Change in the percentage of ? ms using a variable workweek scheme, 1989–2000 6. 1 The percentage distribution of private sector employees by employment status, 1992 and 1997 6. 2 Growth in the number of non-regular employees in the non-agricultural private sector by ? rm size, 1996 and 2000 6. 3 The distribution of establishments and the number of employees by ? rm size, 1978, 1986, and 1999 6. 4 Variation in working conditions by ? rm size in 2001 6. 5 Variation in working environment by ? rm size in 2000 6. 6 The number of furiitaa in August 2000 6. 7 Percentage of students who become employed upon graduation, 1996–2000 6. 8 Percentage of ? ms reaching informal agreements to hire March 2001 graduates before they graduated 7. 1 Japan’s postwar labor legislation 7. 2 Legislation and conventions affecting the formulation of labor law in Japan 7. 3 Percentage of national income spent on social welfare in six nations (circa the mid-1990s) 7. 4 Percentage breakdown for labor costs and the amounts spent on non-wage welfare bene? ts by private ? rms in Japan, 1975–98 7. 5 A comparison of the effect of eight variables on the distribution of income in Japan and the United States circa the mid-1980s 7. 6 The percentage of students receiving private education 7. Percentage of employees by industrial sector, 1960–2000 7. 8 Minimum days of annual leave set by Article 39 of the Labor Standards Law 8. 1 Minimum wage rates set for Tokyo (at 1 January 2001) 8. 2 Number of days for which bene? ts are available for the unemployed (at 1 January 2001) 8. 3 The number and percentage of employees covered by unemployment insurance and the percentage of insured employees who receive bene? ts, 1970–2000 109 112 115 118 119 119 120 122 124 128 129 149 151 156 158 163 168 171 175 182 183 184 x List of tables 8. 4 Changes in the number of households and individuals receiving basic livelihood assistance, 1970–2000 8. The ratio of subscribers to bene? ciaries for the National Pensions Basic Fund, 1993–9 8. 6 The bene? ts paid from the National Pensions Basic Fund to those in Insured Groups I, II, and III, 1999 8. 7 An overview of the major medical insurance schemes in Japan, March 2000 8. 8 Percentage of national income paid out by medical insurance funds as bene? ts and the percentage of the population aged over 65, 1955–99 9. 1 Long-term trends in the unionization rates in Japan, 1946–2001 9. 2 A comparison of unionization rates in four countries, 1985–2000 9. 3 The national centers and their major industrial af? liates, 1970 9. Union members af? liated to each national center, 1998–2000 9. 5 Percentage of unions attaching importance to different matters raised by management in the course of their ? rm’s restructuring, 2000 9. 6 Unionization rate by ? rm size 9. 7 Percentage of unions having an in? uence on restructuring in their ? rm, 2000 9. 8 Distribution of unions by membership size, 2000 10. 1 References to unions and management associations in the index to Takanashi Akira’s Shunto Wage Offensive 10. 2 Major enterprise groupings in Japan in 1995 10. 3 An overview of ? ve major employers’ federations, 1950–2003 10. 4 Distribution of ? rms in Japan by ? m size, July 1999 185 188 190 192 193 201 203 207 210 213 213 218 219 230 234 238 241 Preface This project began nearly ten years ago. At that time a huge literature existed in English on Japanese-style management. Most of it was favorably disposed to what was seen as being an approach to human relations and personnel management that had gone beyond the division of labor and regimentation associated with the Fordist paradigm. In particular there was an interest in how Japanese-style management had produced a highly motivated work force with an exceptionally strong work ethic and commitment to the ? rm and its goals.
To get a better idea of the extent to which work was carried out autonomously in Japan, we felt it would be useful to shift attention from the cultural or ideational domain to the structuring of work choices at both levels, paying special attention to the consequences of not working “hard” for long hours. To provide a better understanding of the work ethic and the reasons for the long hours of work registered in Japan, we felt it was necessary ? rst to set ? rm-level arrangements and choices about work in the context of the larger social parameters: the way external labor markets were structured, the overall mosaic of strati? ation and the provision of various kinds of social services, and the power relations between the labor movement and management at the national level. In our view these were the major structures which limited choice with regard to work at the ? rm level. In our minds was the anecdote of the Japanese researcher who had traveled to Australia to investigate the country’s unemployment insurance scheme in the early 1990s just as the unemployment rate in Japan was climbing to over 3 percent for the ? rst time in nearly forty years. It soon became obvious that the researcher was looking for ways to tighten the system in Japan.
His assumption was that tougher treatment of the unemployed would motivate them to resume work at a quicker pace. The assumption was perhaps reasonable, as Australia itself had had very low rates of employment until the early 1970s, and had then engaged in a discourse which referred to the unemployed as “dole bludgers” as the unemployment rate rose. xi xii Preface When he asked about the length of time for which unemployment bene? ts could be received, which at the time was only six months in Japan, he was greatly surprised to ? nd that there was no time limit on receiving the bene? ts in Australia.
Having ascertained that he was indeed being informed about the dole and not pensions or ongoing compensation for an incapacity owing to a work-related accident, he scratched his head and concluded that the work ethic in Australia was actually quite strong if roughly 90 percent of the labor force was still willing to work “voluntarily” without the compulsion of starving, whereas 3 percent of Japanese (or even more, considering disguised unemployment) chose not to work even with a very strong ? nancial inducement to do so (i. e. to work or to starve after six months). This incident con? med in our minds the need to tie ideas about why employees work as they do to broader structures limiting the conditions of possibility which confront each worker as he or she wrestles with several discourses about work in order to make decisions about where, when, and how hard to work. Over the intervening years a number of correctives to the Japanese model began to emerge. As a result, many observers of Japanese-style management came to appreciate that, for whatever post-Fordist elements there might be, there were also ultra-Fordist features as well. More attention also came to be paid to the nature of the tiered subcontracting which was entral to the functioning of just-in-time schemes and rested on a disaggregation or Balkanization of the labor market. Those inter-? rm relationships injected into the organization of work another set of power relationships external to the ? rm. There was a growing appreciation that a large proportion of the labor force worked outside the large-? rm sector in which the features commonly associated with the Japanese model were normally found. Rather than absorbing the casuals, part-timers, and subcontracted workers over time, it became clear that the large ? ms actually existed in a symbiotic relationship with them, dependent upon their very existence. A literature also emerged on attempts to implement Japanese-style management abroad, and other structural features began to be highlighted in terms of the considerable extent to which members of the core work force were regimented within the model companies themselves. While some writers attributed any friction which emerged to differences in cultural orientations, commenting that a managerial style suited for a conformist- or consensualist-oriented society would have dif? ulty in many of the more individualistically inclined societies of the West, the structural features designed to discipline the labor force still loomed large. From a slightly different perspective, the situation of working women had also become a popular topic for foreign researchers, and much of the English-language literature which resulted from this pointed to the Preface xiii structural weaknesses of Japan’s 1986 Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which lacked the teeth to force change.
In Japan itself attention was being given to the problem of karoshi and to the reasons employees felt compelled to overwork. With that there was a much broader concern with work patterns associated with the model which severely limited the opportunities for some of Japan’s best-educated and dynamic male employees to be with their families and to take a greater interest in community affairs. While valid, these critiques did not seem to present an integrated overview of the larger structural context in which workers made choices about work. Many of the ritiques were set within a normative framework, albeit in critical terms which have no doubt served to nurture the belief that Japan needed to change. Few dealt with the changing power relations that shaped the structural context. Much of the change occurring in Japan was put down to the inevitability of universal forces or global patterns emerging elsewhere and explained in terms of how Japanese culture was “catching up. ” It seemed to be taken for granted that the collapse of Japan’s union movement, especially in terms of its commitment to leftist political goals, was a logical outcome of having new levels of af? ence. If there was a structured element, it was in the collapse of socialist regimes that heralded the end of the cold war (even while the Japan Communist Party continued to receive a healthy 10 percent of the popular vote at national elections). Many descriptions of work in Japan came to be characterized by a set of assumptions bound up in the view that the end of history as we knew it was now in sight in terms of the tensions produced by ideological and cultural differences.
The original idea for this volume was to present an alternative account which explained Japanese-style management not in terms of any uniqueness in cultural or ideological terms, but as a means of expropriating surplus within a speci? c superstructural framework that severely limited the choices available to workers and potential workers at the macro level. During the 1990s Japan drifted into a prolonged recession with rising unemployment and a growing awareness that the world outside was changing, as other nations were rapidly moving to ? d niches in the newly emerging global economy. In considering those changes, it seemed to us that a new superstructure was emerging which would increasingly shape the way work is organized in Japan. There was an awareness that the recession of the union movement was not unique to Japan. The aging of the population, the impact of Japan’s af? uence on the attitudes of its young people to work, the widening gap in the distribution of income, and many other changes in Japanese society could also be seen as universal phenomena.
Successive ? nancial scandals invited comparisons with xiv Preface the situation in other similarly developed societies. At the same time, out of those comparisons emerged a sense that international standards were coming increasingly to in? uence the way societies organized their economic, political, and social affairs (and, ultimately, their very cultures). Moreover, the north–south issues and Japanese investment overseas underlined ways in which the world is strati? ed and structured in terms of the global economy.
Given the above perspective, it became apparent to us that a full understanding of work in Japan would need to consider the labor process at three levels: the way work was organized in individual ? rms, the way societies were structured to allocate work through more broadly based labor markets, and the way the international division of labor was decided. The growing prominence of the extra-territorial factors has caused us to think of the global as a new world order that is now the macro level.
To better articulate that way of sorting through our thoughts about work in Japan, we have come to use the term “meso level” when referring to structures, ideas, and events at the societal (particularly the national) level. In considering the dynamics which result in decisions being made about the organization of work at each of these three levels, it seemed to us that the key variables relate to inequality of one type or another. The forces for change and those for the status quo can be found in the collectivities that have come to be organized in reference to those inequalities.
The inequalities are most commonly de? ned by gender, occupation, organizational size, age, educational background, and spatial location. The role of these factors in accounting for inequalities will be obvious to most readers. Widened beyond a certain point, inequalities reveal objective contradictions. It is the awareness of those contradictions that produces tensions and creates pressure for change. In other words, it is the subjective assessment of those involved in working and in organizing work that is critical. In the past, unions have played a central role in in? encing how workers felt about the objective inequalities which bounded their lives, and much of the employment relationship revolved around the attempts of labor and management to in? uence the way workers perceived the importance of those inequalities in their lives, the choices they had in managing inequality, and the tradeoffs that arose when inequality was multidimensional. Over time, other forces also came into play as the standard of living rose, and these seem to have become noticeably more conspicuous as Japan moved through the 1980s and 1990s.
The assessment of inequality is also tempered by an assessment of its relative importance in terms of the overall level of rewards received in the relevant society. Hence, a commonly heard argument from those seeking to justify having some measure of inequality is that it is better to be poor Preface xv in a rich society than to be in the middle of a poor society. This view is often presented by those at the top of wealthy societies, and goes against the notions of mateship, comradeship, and to each according to his or her needs.
Once a view has crystallized about the dimensions of inequality and its overall importance in the larger scheme of things, the decision to act will be based on an assessment of the likely chances that change will occur and the likely sanctions that will be imposed should the push for change fail. Here the role of the state is central. Our search for the meaning of work in Japan is set in this context of objective inequalities, visions of inequality and the realities of power. This volume seeks to examine how these three elements interact at the meso level.
One of our working hypotheses is that individuals have already made an assessment of their chances and opportunities in the larger society before entering the world of work in a particular ? rm, and that a good deal of their behavior in the ? rm will result from decisions signi? cantly shaped by that world view. This is a hypothesis we cannot test here, but the volume is written in part as a preparation for making such a test. While the media, increased travel, better education, the internet, and aspects of global consumption (e. g. nternational advertising) have served increasingly to draw individuals to the global level and have opened up opportunities to know more about the international division of labor and associated inequalities, and about local phenomena which are universal, it is our feeling that the minds of workers have been imprinted from that vantage point, but not yet to the extent that those impressions outweigh their impressions of the world from the meso level in shaping their assessment of the meso- or micro-level realities. This is another hypothesis to be tested, but not in this volume.
The major aim in writing this book was to draw a picture of the terrain on which work is organized at the meso level in Japan. There seems to be a general recognition that the old paradigms for organizing work in Japanese ? rms no longer hold. As the Japanese struggle to ? nd ways to reinvigorate their economy, there is an active search for a model to replace that currently used for organizing work. There is a common recognition that the Japanese model – with all its structural features, as an important component of the Japanese economy (indeed, of Japanese society) – contributed immensely to the economic achievements of the 1960s and 1970s.
The energy focused in accomplishing those achievements carried Japan forward to an economic apex during the “bubble years” of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when huge balance-of-payments surpluses were recorded and unrealistically high levels of lending occurred to ? nance further growth and non-growth projects alike. There is now a serious xvi Preface realization, however, that a replacement model is needed as one of the cornerstones, if not the keystone, in the building of a new Japanese economy. A study of the dynamics shaping labor process at the meso level will go some way toward highlighting the parameters likely to de? e the paradigm which emerges for work in Japan. In trying to assess the way work is organized at the meso level we have sought to tell a story about how various objective facts relate to the way employees might see the world in subjective terms. We have tried to utilize a wide range of material, including academic opinion and some reference to scholarly research ? ndings, government statistics, popular views in the media, and expositions in some of the popular encyclopedias. In the end we wanted a volume that would communicate not only to readers across several societies (i. e. n English-reading audience and a Japanese-reading audience), but also to those working at different levels in either society. Only time will tell whether we have been successful in doing this. Note on transliteration, romanization, and translation A large number of Japanese terms are introduced in this volume. Several considerations have led us to their introduction. One is to overcome the tendency to think in terms of universals. The introduction of the terms, usually in parentheses following an English explanation, serves to remind us that many of the concepts used in writing about work in Japan have cultural emic dimensions (i. . a set of connotations peculiar to the Japanese setting). The word rodo kumiai, for example, refers to an organization for and by workers in a generic or etic sense. However, when the term is used in Japan, its connotations for most Japanese suggest a particular approach to union organization, trends in unionization rates, a history of ideological struggle between left-wing and right-wing groups, an association with a broad range of citizens’ movements, and a speci? c approach to organization at both the national level and the grassroots level.
The term is also used to refer to a range of other self-help or mutual-help organizations, including credit unions and agricultural, consumer, or insurance cooperatives. Japanese terms are liberally inserted as a subtle reminder that there are real differences in meaning between the Japanese and English terms and the context in which people in different societies talk about similar matters. A second reason for using Japanese terms is to facilitate communication by supplying readers with a basic list of key words that will immediately be recognized by the Japanese with whom they may wish to discuss issues raised in this volume.
Consequently, references to “labor union” (rodo kumiai) serve to indicate that we use the term “labor union” as a rough equivalent for what we are really writing about (i. e. , Japanese rodo kumiai). Conversely, reference to “rodo kumiai” (labor union) is made to indicate that the rodo kumiai we are writing about are fairly similar to “labor unions” in English. As is common practice, all foreign words, including the large number of Japanese words introduced in this text, are italicized. The exceptions include proper nouns and of? cial titles. The personal names of Japanese are given in the Japanese order, with the surname ? st. Exceptions are xvii xviii Transliteration, romanization, and translation made for Japanese who live and work abroad and are generally known abroad by their given name followed by the surname. There are obviously cases in the gray area; an increasing number of Japanese move back and forth or have signi? cant careers abroad before returning home to Japan. The decision in such cases can only be arbitrary. Japanese words have been romanized in the Standard or Hepburn style. However, the macron or elongation mark has been omitted in transcribing long vowels for ordinary Japanese words.
This is in line with common practice as noted by Neustupny (1991: 8), who suggests it is always inserted “in texts addressed to specialized Japanese studies audiences” but generally omitted from “more popular writings” for a broader audience. While purists in the use of the Japanese language might object, several considerations led to this decision. First, in percentage terms, a brief count of Japanese words mentioned in the text suggested that fewer than 10 percent had elongated vowels, and of those few were words where confusion would occur.
An example of such confusion might be the name “Ohashi,” which could consist of either the two characters meaning “big bridge” or the two characters meaning “little bridge. ” However, our feeling was that the majority of readers would be reading in English only and not reading the references. Second, dictionaries such as Kenkyusha’s list words in romanized script so that all words which differ only in terms of the short and elongated vowel are listed together, and the choice of the right term is easy given the context, and the fact that an English translation is supplied in most cases.
In recent years the Japanese have absorbed a large number of foreign words which are sometimes more dif? cult to decode or to look up than native Japanese words. The origin of such words is denoted in Japanese by writing them in a designated script, katakana. For those words, we have indicated the elongated sound by repeating the double vowel in the roman script. Thus, the publication Shukan Rodo Nyuusu is the “Weekly News on Work. ” In trialing this approach with a small sample of postgraduate students, who were asked to transcribe back into English from romanized
Japanese, it was found that the error rate in transcription was negligible. The experiment suggested that personal names were more dif? cult than ordinary words to transcribe back into Japanese, and that more errors occurred in transcribing items in the list of references than in the text. However, the purpose of the list is to allow readers to locate cited sources, and there are a number of ways to do that even with partial information (e. g. by looking up the title of the publication rather than the author’s name), and again the demerits of omitting the elongation mark seemed small.
In this regard, an effort was made to provide a list of references that was as detailed as possible. Transliteration, romanization, and translation xix This work has included small amounts of translation, mostly from the Japanese-language titles in the list of references for which both the romanized Japanese and an English translation are provided. Titles are short and tend to invite a direct translation. Because the direct translation is somewhat awkward or misleading in English when taken out of context, some liberty has been taken to provide a translation which best matches the overall thrust of each speci? item. In translating longer passages, a number of arbitrary interpretive and stylistic decisions were made. These kinds of decisions rest on assumptions about the function the translation is to perform in the telling of the story. Which version is most appropriate can only be left to the reader’s broader judgments about the story itself – judgments that are likely to vary from reader to reader. We can only ask for the reader’s patience, tolerance, and understanding in this matter, and welcome all critical comments so that a better job of storytelling can be done next time.
Abbreviations ASC CPI GHQ ILO JCP LDP LSL MITI MNE MSC MWL NGO NKSC NPO QC SRN WHO WTO YSC Asahi Shimbun (morning edition of a national daily newspaper) Consumer Price Index General Headquarters (of the Allied occupation of Japan) International Labor Organization Japan Communist Party Liberal Democratic Party Labor Standards Law Ministry of International Trade and Industry multinational enterprise Mainichi Shimbun (morning edition of a national daily newspaper) Minimum Wage Law non-government organization Nihon Keizai Shimbun (morning edition of the nation’s leading ? ancial daily) non-pro? t organization quality control Shukan Rodo Nyuusu (a weekly newspaper) World Health Organization World Trade Organization Yomiuri Shimbun (morning edition of a national daily newspaper) xx Part I A context for studying work 1 The Japanese at work 1. 1 Japanese-style management and the interest in Japanese at work Over the last twenty years, a huge literature has emerged about work in Japan. The interest in Japan has followed that country’s success as a national economy.
Although economists had been aware of Japan’s steady rise to economic prominence over the hundred years following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, from around 1970 Japan’s large balanceof-payments surpluses drew wider attention to “the Japanese miracle. ” A number of books appeared to suggest that Japan had overnight become a new economic superstate that would challenge or even threaten Western economic supremacy. Their titles were often couched in ethnocentric terms that connoted not only warnings, but also condescending surprise, that a non-Western nation so severely beaten in 1945 could achieve so much within twenty-? ve years.
To explain Japan’s sudden emergence as an economic superstate, many writers, including the futurologist Herman Kahn (1970), attached great importance to the Japanese mindset. They alleged that cultural remnants or feudalistic values – such as group loyalty, a motivation to achieve based on duty and the fear of shame or losing face, and Confucian frugality – and a special sense of community or national consensus were the wellsprings of Japan’s economic success. Two underlying concerns marked much of that literature. One was a resentment of Japan’s success in selling manufactured goods in the markets of the advanced industrialized economies.
Many writers sought to assess the likelihood that Japan’s success would be shortlived and not result in a long-term “threat. ” This focus underscored a fear and often encouraged a belief that there was a need for protective measures to counter the Japanese invasion. The second concern arose from the ideological position taken in many Western countries during the cold war. In the West a high value had been placed on free trade and there was a very real rationalist interest in how Japanese goods had become so competitive in terms of price and quality. 4 A context for studying work This emphasis served to counter the ? rst concern and opened the door for the “Japan guru” and others associated with the “learn-from-Japan campaign” which emerged in the late 1970s. As Japanese exports continued to make inroads abroad, and Japan’s balance-of-payment surpluses ballooned in the 1980s, American and European managers began to visit Japan in large numbers to learn about quality control and bottom-up management techniques.
An early stimulus to the interest in Japanese-style management was Dore’s British Factory – Japanese Factory (1973). Taking the theory of late development as a starting point, Dore argued that Japan had leapfrogged ahead in the design of industrial relations systems because it had been able to circumnavigate many of the problems associated with earlier efforts to industrialize. He suggested that Japan had avoided the strong antagonistic class relations between workers and managers which had characterized the industrialization process in many Western societies.
Dore argued further that corporate welfarism had resolved many of the social justice issues in Japan. In 1979 Vogel published Japan as Number One, in which he too argued that Japan had actually moved ahead of the US and many European countries in a number of critical areas. He praised the Japanese approach to organizing work, the maintenance of high levels of cultural cohesion and social stability, the functioning of a highly effective bureaucracy, and the achievement of generally high levels of literacy.
By the early 1980s the “learn-from-Japan campaign” was in high gear. One book after another appeared which extolled Japanese approaches to maintaining law and order, to supplying high-quality education, to fostering meaningful social interaction, and to developing satisfying and productive industrial relations or management styles. It became fashionable for academic writers to conclude research reports on Japan with a chapter on lessons for others. The interest in learning from Japan was quite pronounced in the area of management.
Something about Japanese-style management was seen as accounting for high levels of productivity. The quality of Japanese products and the low level of industrial disputes were seen as evidence of the success of Japanese management, low levels of worker alienation, and a distinct work ethic. Ouchi’s Theory Z (1981) and Pascale and Athos’s The Art of Japanese Management (1981) were two of the earlier volumes seeking to explain Japanese-style management to English-speaking managers around the world. The 1980s saw an outpouring of volumes on all aspects of Japanese-style management.
Throughout this period Japan’s experience became a major point of reference for many who were writing about management and global capitalism. Writers such as Thurow (1983, 1992 and 1996) and Drucker (1993) typify this interest in Japan. The Japanese at work 5 By the late 1980s many observers, such as Kenny and Florida (1993), were proclaiming that Japan had developed a truly post-Fordist or postmodern approach to organizing work. Much of the literature on Japanese management assumed that the Japanese worker’s commitment to work and to his place of work had been integral to the superior performance of the Japanese economy.
That commitment was seen as overriding the adverse conditions which many workers had to put up with, including long hours and excessive regimentation. It was commonly argued that Japanese management had worked with and fostered a cultural paradigm that was quite different from the one found in most Western countries. The assumption was that Japanese culture resulted in workers and managers sharing similar values, which underpinned Japanese work practices and an unusually strong commitment to doing work. The conclusion was often that Western managers needed to alter their managerial style.
The corollary was that a kind of cultural revolution was required in many Western societies so that antagonistic class relations formed during earlier stages of industrialization would give way to more cooperative relations at work and in society at large. 1. 2 Reassessing Japanese-style management Given the general enthusiasm for Japanese-style management, linked to the functional requisites for high productivity, other aspects of work organization have tended to be pushed aside. This was especially true outside Japan.
North American scholarship had traditionally veered away from Marxist themes. As the cold war progressed, traditional perspectives on industrial relations which emphasized con? ict and its resolution through power relations tended to give way to optimistic assessments concerning the manageability of human resources and the ability of progressive management to preempt con? ict. Countering that predilection, Kassalow (1983) argued that Japan’s approach to industrial relations would not be a serious model for organizing work elsewhere unless three conditions were met. The ? st was that the system produced high levels of national economic competitiveness. Second was that all the stakeholders in Japan agreed the model was a satisfactory way of organizing work. Third was that members of the society generating the model desired to export it. The second and third conditions have been least satis? ed and require close examination. As for consensus, conservative governments and employers’ associations have since the early 1950s attacked left-wing unionism and the Marxist-inspired scholarship associated with it. Two successive 6 A context for studying work oil shocks” in the 1970s fostered a renewed seriousness about national economic competitiveness and discipline at work. As socialist regimes abroad increasingly came to confront various contradictions in the 1980s, conservatives made headway and seemingly emerged victorious by the end of the 1980s, by which time militant left-wing unionism had also lost out in the uni? cation of the labor movement. As the bubble years of the 1980s gave way to a new consumerism, dissident scholarship relevant to the understanding of work in Japan ebbed, and the interest in critiques of work organization in Japan waned.
This gave the impression that consensus had been achieved and that the second condition seemed to have been met. However, after Japan’s economic bubble burst in the early 1990s, thirty-? ve years of conservative rule came to an end. In the 1990s successive ? nancial crises, the frequent turnover of national governments, rising unemployment, multicultural pressures, and the incursion of foreign-made goods underlined the need for a fundamental questioning of the work-related institutions previously seen as the wellspring of Japan’s postwar economic success.
Many Japanese began to face a certain dilemma: three decades of hard work and Japan’s very high per capita incomes had not produced a commensurately high standard of living. This led to questions about how hard to work and the even more basic question: how wealthy is wealthy enough? By the 1990s many Japanese were feeling a great national tiredness and frustration in not knowing how to convert the nation’s economic prowess into a better quality of life. There was a growing awareness that mammoth changes were required to alter a system that had been geared to putting production ? rst.
As Shimada (1995) put it, there were problems in having a system which produces more than can be consumed: Japan’s huge balance-of-payments surpluses were symptomatic of serious economic anorexia. Japan’s economy had come to be structured in ways that made it dif? cult for ordinary Japanese to enjoy the wealth it generated. It was an economy built on lean production. Such an economy, Shimada argued, had serious health problems. Re? ecting on this systemic problem, Sato (1993) wrote about Japan’s new spiritual refugees who were migrating to Australia to escape the Japanese system.
These Japanese differed from the economic emigrants who left Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century. At issue was the dysfunctioning of the Japanese system as a whole. For such Japanese the high material standard of living was offset by high levels of stress. This perspective is presented in the recent writings of Kumazawa (1996 and 1997) and by those who write about karoshi (death from overwork). Those writing about these aspects would argue that Kassalow’s consensus was The Japanese at work 7 to be found more in the form of an awkward silence than in a resounding cheer for the bene? s of Japanese-style management. Overseas, Japanese ? rms came to be known for their hostility to unionism, for their failure to incorporate local managers, women or the aged into the upper realms of management, for a lack of seriousness in dealing with certain social issues such as sexual harassment, for implementing just-in-time systems that overly disciplined workers in a vast array of hierarchically aligned subcontractors, and for the tightness with which it withheld from the public information on in-house dealings and other socially relevant matters.
These considerations mark the extent to which of? cial and unof? cial interpretations diverge and the “labeling” by which certain ways of organizing work are presented to the public as “respectable” and others are not. Because the engineering of work organization inevitably involves social change, management in leading ? rms must constantly engage in public relations exercises to implement change. For this reason, a full analysis of work in Japan requires that attention be paid both to the manifest and to the latent ways in which work is organized.
As for the third of Kassalow’s conditions, Japanese management and the government have been equivocal about the transferability of Japanesestyle management. Prior to 1980 most of Japan’s investment overseas had been by small ? rms seeking to save on labor-intensive processes. From the late 1970s Japan’s large ? rms began in a concerted manner to manufacture abroad within tariff-protected or regulated areas and to counter mounting criticism of the negative effects their large-scale exports from Japan were having on other societies. For this reason there was sensitivity to local work practices.
However, as Japanese multinational enterprises (MNEs) became more con? dent in their own labor processes and more familiar with the foreign settings, many encouraged their leaner subcontractors to follow them abroad, and Japanese managers began to introduce some Japanese practices while leaving others at home. On the home front, partly as a result of direct pressure through the Structural Impediments Initiatives that came to be built into US–Japan bilateral relations in the late 1980s, many Japanese became more aware of the bene? ts of aligning practices in Japan with those found in other major economies.
Steps to deregulate the Japanese economy have also coincided with social changes in Japan over the past ten to ? fteen years. New developments in global capitalism have made the export of Japanesestyle management and Japanese-style industrial relations practices in toto less pertinent. Japanese who want to say no to Western demands are now much less likely to do so on cultural grounds or to invoke parochial notions of cultural relativism in order to justify the introduction of allegedly Japanese ways of managing. 8 A context for studying work
As the evidence on Japanese-style management overseas accumulated during the 1980s, Japanese management increasingly came under the scrutiny of local communities. In North America and Europe many have a greater appreciation of the social consequences of Japanese-style management. Japanese managers now seem less enthusiastic about implementing the Japanese approach to industrial relations abroad. Another factor undermining the con? dence of Japanese managers and depressing interest abroad in learning from the way work is organized in Japan has been the inability of the national economy to perform at levels achieved prior to 1990.
During the 1990s the Japanese model lost its edge in meeting Kassalow’s ? rst criterion. 1. 3 A general perspective on postmodernism and the organization of work: post-Fordist or ultra-Fordist? The Japanese experience poses some hard questions about the nature of work. Four decades of rapid economic growth from the 1950s took Japan far beyond industrialization. In the late 1980s it was commonly argued that in becoming post-industrial Japanese society had also gone beyond modernization and the processes of rationalization which led to standardization, not just in work processes but also in life processes more generally.
With the emergence of a national labor market and mass society, many came to the view that 90 percent of the Japanese identi? ed with some amorphous “middle class. ” Nevertheless, although one can point to standardization in the education system, in the mass media, in the language, and in the rhythm of commuting, serious questions remain concerning the homogeneity of the Japanese in terms of a shared consciousness or ethos at work. These doubts were systematically detailed by Mouer and Sugimoto (1986).
During the late 1980s and early 1990s debate focused on whether Japanese-style management actually represented a new post-Fordist system of production or was only a logical extension of the Fordist production system. Various contributions to that debate were later brought together in a volume edited by Kato and Steven (1993). 1. 3. 1 The dilemma of modernity Modernization challenged social theorists with its emphasis on choice and liberation. Some time ago, Apter (1966) wrote that the essence of being modern lies in the willingness and the ability to make strategic choices.
The dilemma of choice was especially apparent in societies that The Japanese at work 9 came late to industrialization and required disciplined efforts to “catch up. ” For them modernization became an exercise in the mobilization of entire populations to ward off outside control. This produced a tension between (i) the ability of individuals to make rational choices in their pursuit of individual freedom and autonomy, and (ii) the capacity of societies to make collective choices which were rational in terms of achieving self-sustaining development and national independence.
Developmentalist ideologies sometimes blurred the distinction between internalized cultural values and politically supported policy objectives. Today some write about an Asian mode of democracy, whereby the national development needed to win new freedoms for Asian societies results in strategic restrictions being placed on the choices available to the individuals who constitute those societies. The debate on Asian values highlights ambiguities and tensions created by modernity and by notions of universal economic rationality.
Greater physical comfort and new standards based on universalistic principles are products of modernization and the drive for economic rationality. Beyond a certain point, however, further development requires more open ? ows of information that in turn allow individuals to disengage themselves from the state and its narrowly de? ned goals. This gives rise to postmodernity and to multiculturalist values that challenge many of the assumptions built into work when it is organized solely in the service of modernity and national development.
As Japan continues to develop and the Japanese begin to enjoy the fruits of modernity, many of the tensions between modernity and postmodernity emerge at work. For some time now, the nature of Japan’s postmodernity has been debated. While the general consensus seems to be that Japan’s culture has been able to incorporate contrasting elements, doubts remain about the extent to which Japan’s social structures demonstrate a similar tolerance or ? exibility.
This was certainly the view of American policymakers intent on Japan removing various structural impediments in the late 1980s, and structured change did result in changed behavior and new patterns of consumption. Although structural in? exibility in the economy was highlighted by Japan’s hesitancy to improve transparency in its ? nancial sector, the Structural Impediments Initiatives also directed attention toward Japan’s rigid system of centrally controlled education, segmented labor markets, and other facets of social organization.
Change in these domains over the past decade reinforces the view that many structures in Japan have operated independently of a coherent national culture and can be further altered in response to political realignments of power relations. 10 A context for studying work 1. 3. 2 The question of ? exibility at work From the early 1990s the ? exibility of the Japanese system with regard to work has been questioned in three areas. One concerns questions of choice and multiculturalism at work.
Here “multiculturalism” refers not only to the level of tolerance shown toward newcomers and Japan’s different ethnic minorities, but also to ? exibility in recognizing or accepting different work patterns to accommodate the handicapped, those with special family responsibilities, those at different points in their life, those with different sexual preferences, and those with different work–leisure ethics. Much of the discussion of these matters by business interests in Japan has correctly pointed out that this kind of ? exibility is often very expensive in terms of a ? m’s economic competitiveness. Chapters 5 and 6 discuss the labor market and suggest that Japan’s system for organizing work still appears to be rigidly modernist and assimilationist (i. e. monocultural), although internationalization and various internal forces for postmodernism seem to be producing greater ? exibility at work than has been the case in the past. A second area of concern involves the shift from the clearly de? ned and easily measured goal of income maximization and more national GDP per capita to the nebulous goal of improving the standard of living and lifestyles.
Workers have come increasingly to reassess their goals at work, both materially and psychologically. Those in the modernist mode tend to conclude that the younger generation, spoilt by af? uence, has lost the work ethic. Modernists may also push to widen the scope for individual choice, but relate workways and lifestyle to fairly predictable stages in life. However, the Japanese now access vast information about the outside world via the media and the internet. A growing number tour, study, and do business abroad, often accompanied by their families. During the bubble ears many came to see irony in Japan having the highest GNP per capita and the most advanced electronic gadgetry in the world while many citizens experienced circumstances associated with the early stages of economic development: substandard housing, long hours of work, and poor infrastructure for leisure-time activities and for medical care. The third set of choices relate to the nature of the work ethic, the commitment of the Japanese to their work organizations, and the balance between voluntarism and regimentation or between self-discipline and institutionalized discipline.
The distinction between institutional structures and culture is important in assessing the extent to which the Japanese approach to work still relies on structures rather than on culture or shared values. This is odd, given that much of the literature on work in The Japanese at work 11 Japan has traditionally placed heavy emphasis on uniquely Japanese cultural traits or values as major factors facilitating Japan’s past economic achievements at the enterprise level. Structures exist at several levels, and behavior in the ? rm is often shaped by institutions at the national level, and increasingly by global arrangements. . 3. 3 Corporatism and the free market economy Questions concerning the locus of power or decision-making in Japan have been at the center of debate on contemporary Japan for some time (e. g. Stockwin 1980). Numerous observers such as van Wolferen (1990) and McCormack (1996) have argued that decision-making in Japan is diffused in a complex network of interconnected interests. These descriptions, while sometimes intended as a means of delineating the peculiarity of Japan’s approach to social organization, are often consistent with those found in writings about power elites and strategic elites in other societies.
Pluralists (such as Sone 1989) point to a wide range of participants in Japan’s political process. Contributors to Inagami (1995) describe work organization in corporatistic terms as a form of centralized democracy. This view had appeared earlier in Okochi, Karsh, and Levine (1973), who argued that the organization of work in Japan and in other industrialized societies can usefully be understood in terms of the institutional framework earlier advanced by Dunlop (1958). They posited that work organizations are shaped by arrangements that incorporate and balance the interests of big business, big government, and big labor.
This understanding was also the starting point for Kenny and Florida (1993), who saw Japan’s strong union movement immediately after the war as a de? ning in? uence on work organization. Developments of the past decade, however, lead one to question the corporatist framework. The in? uence of the national peak organizations for labor, including Rengo, has greatly declined. As noted below in chapter 9, the unionization rate has dropped considerably over the past two decades. Rengo’s in? uence on social policy relevant to the wellbeing of many in Japan’s labor force has also declined.
Once the major political vehicle for organized labor in Japan, the Japan Socialist Party (now the Social Democratic Party) survives in a very shaky manner after a brief taste of coalition power with the Murayama cabinet (1993–6). As Shimizu (1997) and others have suggested, the inability of Japanese unions to affect policy has led many to question the need for Japanese unions to exist at all – a view at odds with the notion that there is a corporatist balance of power. 12 A context for studying work Such doubts are not new.
Galenson and Odaka (1976) questioned whether Japanese unions were really free and meaningfully committed to the interests of their members. Kawanishi (1992a) described how many unions perform as an adjunct to management in the implementation of personnel policies designed by and for management. This is not to ignore the signi? cant role some unions play in enhancing the wellbeing of their members at the ? rm level (cf. Kawanishi 1992a; Benson 1994 and 1996). Another dif? culty with the corporatist formulation is that the business– government relationship is less cosy and less predictable than in the past.
The in? uence of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has waned considerably over the past ? fteen to twenty years, and, despite amalgamation, the peak employer organizations such as Nikkeiren and Keidanren have come to have less sway over their members. In the 1980s Sugimoto (1988) noted a divergence between the forces for “emperor-? rst capitalism” and those for business-? rst capitalism. He posited that ? rms putting pro? ts ahead of the national interest had become conspicuous in the 1980s.
The tight linkage of corporate and bureaucratic interests through shingikai (government advisory councils) also weakened as radical unionism faded and old ministries were restructured by administrative reforms in the late 1990s. In 2001 the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health and Welfare were merged. As the in? uence of the three main parties determining industrial relations waned, the corporatistic structuring of life also seemed to give way to less institutionalized market forces: a sign perhaps that a civil society was emerging in Japan.
This ? ts in with the views of a number of writers (e. g. Mouer and Sugimoto 1995 and 2003; Rifkin 1996; Garten 1997; Nikkei Bijinesu 1997) who suggest that the end of the cold war was accompanied by increased international competition and a new level of economic rationalism at the ? rm level. They point to fundamental ways in which a number of elements at the global level are coming to affect the organization of work as it evolves in Japan and elsewhere at the beginning of the twenty-? rst century.
As the organization of work is restructured to incorporate advances in information technology and communications, it is perhaps useful to think of how labor process is being shaped simultaneously on three different, though overlapping, levels. In considering the future of work in contemporary Japan, the concerns mentioned in this section have shifted attention either up to the suprastructural factors at the international or global level or down to the ? rm and other factors at the local level. However, as the in? ence of big government, big business and big labor declines, there is a danger that other phenomena at the national level will be overlooked. The Japanese at work 13 Without introducing the debate on the continuing signi? cance of the nation state in the global era, this is, then, an argument that a thorough discussion of labor process must consider work relations at the macro level (used here to refer to factors shaping global standards and the international division of labor in terms of the world system), at the meso level (referring here to the many institutional arrangements in? encing how work is organized at the national level), and at the micro level (referring primarily to how work is organized at the local level in speci? c ? rms and in regionally based industries). There is also a danger that the importance of institutional or structural differences will be downplayed as attention focuses on universal trends: the decline in permanent ? xed-shift employment, falling unionization rates, the end to the long-term decline in the working hours of permanent employees, the multiculturalization of the labor force, the aging of the population, growing social inequality, and change in the family.
Looking at fourteen nations around the world, the contributions to Corn? eld and Hodson (2002) emphasize the continued importance of national differences in work organization while also acknowledging these common trends. 1. 3. 4 The generation of surplus The ? ftieth anniversary of the Marshall Plan in May 1997 drew attention to the importance of capital in the postwar economic recovery of Europe. The success of the Plan demonstrated a simple truth in the work of Rostow (1959) and others writing about economic development: ongoing capital accumulation is a sine qua non for economic growth.
They argued that societies progressed through a series of stages with the rate of savings increasing to a critical level where economies “took off,” and then to even higher levels in periods of very high growth, before dropping back to levels necessary to sustain high productivity. Continuing to present this simple truth, writers on the advanced economies over the past few decades have come to recognize that surplus for capital formation is a necessary but not always suf? cient condition for growth to occur.
The lower rates of productivity found in many Western nations during the 1970s and 1980s were attributed to excessive spending, some of which was by the state for social welfare and social justice. In some countries, military spending has also eroded savings. Subsequent efforts to constrain public spending in such areas has shifted attention to the microeconomic level and to what private ? rms can achieve when unfettered by taxes and regulations. Here, certain aspects of Japanesestyle management (e. g. just-in-time arrangements and enterprise bargaining) have been featured as ways in which ? ms can achieve higher 14 A context for studying work levels of productivity. Massive restructuring in large economic organizations has not stopped simply with the removal of waste. The overall belt-tightening in ? rms has resulted in more careful regulation of labor inputs and the intensi? cation of work among those who remain in permanent employment. This has obviously affected the way work is organized in Japan. Many writers suggest that the new advances in information technology now drive a new kind of industrial revolution.
Less prominently noted is the fact that these changes in the economy’s technological base are requiring new levels of capital accumulation for another takeoff and for the sustained growth that is meant to follow. Accordingly, for the foreseeable future, work organization is likely to be characterized by the ongoing change needed to sustain a process of capital formation and accumulation. The changes required for the necessary savings to be achieved may be seen in various social developments. One is the growing inequality in the distribution of income.
This trend needs to be understood not only in each of the advanced economies of the world, but also in terms of the growing gap between the rich and the poor nations as world production systems come to institutionalize divisions of labor on a global scale (Korzeniewicz and Moran 1997). Japan is again a key case. Huge investments are required if the Japanese economy is to transform itself in the high-tech era in order to improve its competitiveness in world trade. Already Japan feels pressured by China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse.
Central to Japan making the transition will be the mechanisms for generating surplus. Doubt since the 1990s about whether Japan’s ? nancial institutions will perform well in this regard has caused many of Japan’s most dynamic enterprises to push for labor market deregulation. The demand for freedom to maneuver their labor force more ? exibly focuses attention on how the Japanese state will balance efforts to generate economic surplus with the need to provide economic security to citizens at work.
While some writers have indicated that work organization will have to change fundamentally in more globalized economies (Rifkin 1996; Lipietz 1997), some such as Kumazawa (1996 and 1997) have noted that this transition is already producing in Japan various mechanisms to squeeze labor further. This is consistent with the view that Japanese-style management in the 1970s and 1980s had become an accentuated form of “ultra-Fordism” rather than the harbinger of “post-Fordism. The earlier debate on Fordism reminds us that an understanding of how work is organized in Japan must include a careful consideration of how labor process at the micro level functions within the broader context of labor process at the meso (national) and macro (global) levels. The Japanese at work 15 1. 4 Work ideology in the changing world system To develop further a sociology of labor in Japan, attention needs to be given to how the new technologies are shaping interaction between labor processes on the global, national, and local levels, as individuals, organizations, and states seek to generate economic surplus.
Work intensi? cation, casualization, and changes in the wage system have been markedly shaped by power relations between the “big three. ” As new forces emerge at the local and international levels and the fundamentals of ownership change, especially as they relate to industrial property (i. e. the production, movement, and control of information) and to citizenship, further tensions will emerge from the clash between ideologies pushing for the modern and those advocating the postmodern.
Following the cold war, attention shifted away from the East–West divide and from comparisons of how capitalist or market economies stacked up against socialist or command economies. However, even though socialism is now widely seen as a failed blueprint for economic development, if not for social development more generally, it is dif? cult to conclude that we will see the end of ideology as predicted by Bell (1960) over forty years ago, or Fukuyama (1993) more recently. Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (1994) argue that there are at least seven cultures of capitalism. As the competition between capitalist nations intensi? s, debate will likely come to revolve around the superiority of speci? c approaches to capitalism. The “Look East policies” of Malaysia and Singapore in the 1980s and early 1990s combined ideas about work organization in Asia with assumptions about Asian modes of democracy. Mahathir and Ishihara (1994) and others argue that Asian values require a different approach to social organization. Although the ? nal outcome may be a move toward global standards, it will likely be some time before we see the ultimate capitalist system combining best capitalist world practice in all spheres of economic and social activity.
The experience with national systems of industrial relations has been that complex institutions have a life of their own and that such institutions are revamped only every ? fty to a hundred years. It is thus important to consider the extent to which Japan’s institutions at the national level accommodate or compromise “global standards. ” To understand the forces shaping the future of work in advanced capitalist economies, it is useful to assess how the debate on different capitalisms is shaping the world system.
Much of the recent discussion of trade strategies in international forums is about the balance to be struck between working and living. Two general categories of concern are central 16 A context for studying work to any assessment of competing brands of capitalism. One is the way work is organized and relates to the right, the privilege, the opportunity, and/or the duty to work. The other involves the goals to be achieved through work. 1. 5 Toward a superior work ethic? Several yardsticks are used to evaluate competing economic models. Some time ago Wilcox (1966) identi? d eight criteria for the task. Here two are considered: ef? ciency and the freedom to choose. 1. 5. 1 Ef? ciency The ? rst criterion is whether one system of production is more ef? cient than another. The focus on ef? ciency is largely about the ability of systems to export and to generate balance-of-payments surpluses. That ability was mentioned above as a major reason why national systems of industrial relations become widely accepted as models for other societies. The importance of this criterion will be enhanced by moves to more open trade through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
With freer trade in capital, technology, ideologies and culture accompanying the more market-oriented approach of the WTO, the competitive advantage of many local areas may not go much beyond the productivity of locally based labor. Microeconomic reform is about making those workers more ef? cient and testing their ef? ciency through competition (e. g. deregulated labor markets). Most assessments of Japan, beginning with two OECD reports on the Japanese system of industrial relations in the 1970s, have rated highly the contributions of Japanese labor to Japan’s overall economic competitiveness.
Japan is now confronted by the need to squeeze from its labor force further productivity while maintaining higher levels of commitment. By choosing to further deregulate Japan’s labor markets, policymakers are challenging established understandings about the rewards and incentives previously seen as keys to motivating the Japanese labor force. The issues raised by this dilemma are addressed at various points throughout this volume as central to any assessment about the peculiarities that might distinguish Japanese capitalism from other versions. 1. 5. Choice and free trade A key issue arising out of the commitment to free trade is how to conceive of the right to compete in the free trade of goods and services. These concerns link back through time to questions of colonialism, economic The Japanese at work 17 imperialism, and economic dependence. Do workers in industrialized countries really wish to compete on a level playing ? eld with workers in the non-industrialized world? If so, what are the rules that de? ne notions of fair competition, and who makes those rules? How legitimate are sweat shops?
How legitimate as a means of competing is social dumping in the form of lower wages, longer hours of work, poorer housing, and environmental degradation? The consequences of winning or losing the game of national economic competition are such that citizens in many countries can easily be persuaded that various deprivations are a reasonable price to pay for national economic independence. 1. 5. 3 Human rights and the right to compete Unbridled competition between work organizations ultimately raises questions about human rights and cultural style.
Time lags in development often invite accusations of hypocrisy from the less-developed nations. Why were sweat shops or child labor acceptable in eighteenthcentury England but are not in twenty-? rst-century Bangladesh? Why does the coverage given to the Olympics and to many other international sporting events by the Western-dominated media legitimate one kind of child labor that later leads to stardom in the entertainment industry while the same media condemn child labor when it occurs in a factory?
While these kinds of issues seldom surfaced in Japan–US trade disputes, assumptions about which structural arrangements for work are “fair” or “unfair” did. Many Japanese continue to be resentful of what they see as American attempts to impose its inconsistent norms as “global standards. ” Such attempts are seen ultimately as abrogating the right to compete and limiting the right of nations to set and to control working conditions in line with the wishes of their citizens. As a means to an end, the right to compete is the right to work, and that is in turn the right of workers to accept regimentation to achieve national goals.
In contemporary Japan karoshi (death from overwork) has been seen as a serious problem (Karoshi Bengodan Zenkoku Renraku Kaigi 1991), but if the Japanese wish to pay that price, do most Europeans, Australians, or North Americans still wish to compete? Free trade arrangements for ? nancial services and the ? ow of investment have come increasingly to mean that the price of failure could well be selling off “the farm” or a nation’s cultural assets to more competitive foreign interests. Another consideration is the fact that the amount of effort required to gain independence often appears to be greater han that necessary to maintain a competitive advantage once this has been achieved. A third is that workers in more competitive economies often become “embourgeoised” once an af? uent lifestyle is achieved. 18 A context for studying work The challenge is more starkly stated when translated into hours of work. Japan’s annual average of 2,100–2,200 hours circa 1990 contrasted sharply with the 1,500–1,600 hours recorded in many European countries. While the extra leisure enjoyed by many Europeans might be regarded as a kind of reward for superior ef? iency, a free trade regime will, ceteris paribus, result in Japan’s longer hours of work putting pressure on workers in those societies to follow suit. Similarly, still longer hours and lower labor costs in China are seen as pressuring Japanese workers. Given the general acknowledgment that many Japanese workers are doing “service overtime” (unrecorded, and therefore free, overtime for their employers), some between 500 and 800 hours a year, it is not idle to speculate about mechanisms in Japan that might ensure that Japanese workers cannot be prodded into working 2,500 hours a year in order to improve their international competitiveness.
Although the Japanese model now draws less interest, Japanese views on these matters are relevant to policymakers elsewhere. Leaving aside the very public contribution of Japanese commentators to Australian thinking about its levels of industrial disputation at the end of the 1970s, and less obvious Japanese in? uence contributing to the introduction of enterprise bargaining, one might speculate about how the publicity given to Japanese perceptions at the end of the 1980s that Australians were all “large, lazy and lucky” (Ormonde 1992) facilitated work intensi? ation and the rise in the hours of work in Australia over the 1990s. Because hours of work fell remarkably in Japan during the 1990s, and Japan is no longer so different in this regard, the Japanese experience is relevant to the management of international competition and to assessments of Asian values and propositions that the appropriateness of certain social arrangements (including regimentation at work) is determined by overall levels of productivity and what a society (and its individuals) can reasonably afford. Japanese policymakers continue to grapple with the tradeoffs between ef? iency and social justice and with how best to motivate younger workers with a diverse range of interests. In order to assess that tradeoff, a fuller appreciation of the factors shaping the Japanese “commitment” or “willingness” to work long hours is needed. Central to any evaluation of the long hours of work recorded in Japan at the beginning of the 1990s is an assessment of how voluntarily Japanese workers work. If the long hours of work recorded in Japan are just a re? ection of a culturally ordained work ethic (i. e. he joy of working as much as possible), the appropriate response in societies wishing to compete may simply be to exhort their own workers to work longer or harder or with more commitment. If, however, Japanese work habits are seen to be the product of structures which reward and penalize workers The Japanese at work 19 for differences in hours worked, then there are questions about human rights at work, about the desirability of having international standards, and about the tradeoff between hours of work, productivity, and voluntariness. 1. 6 Toward an understanding of work in Japan
The preceding discussion suggests there are competing visions of how work is organized in Japan. This should not be surprising; Japan is a complex society. Its economy consists of large and small ? rms, male and female employees, those with more education at elite institutions and those with less education at mediocre schools, various industries and geographic regions, unionized and non-unionized workers. For persons positioned differently in the Japanese economy, work will obviously mean different things and result in different understandings.
These variations will be most apparent at the micro level. This volume tries to capture some of the context or milieu in which the Japanese make choices about work. As indicated above, the context for work can be conceived on three levels: the macro or international, the meso or national, and the micro, ? rm-speci? c, or local. Workers and management interact most at the micro levels. Many studies, including a number of good ethnographies, have thrown light on how work is organized at the ? rm level. At the other end of the spectrum, few workers or managers have much input on the international stage.
Decisions there are often made beyond the boundaries of most states. The extent to which Japan as a nation state or the Japanese as private citizens are able to affect decisions at the global level increasingly deserves careful attention as global civil society emerges. At the national level, individual workers also have little direct input, although some may have a collective input through their unions. Managers at large ? rms, however, are probably more likely to affect arrangements for work at the national level in Japan.
They most often do so through industrial federations and have an input into the formation of industrial policy. Management at medium-sized and smaller ? rms and representatives of regional economic interests may have varying amounts of in? uence. In democracies like Japan individuals can and do compete to support political parties with quite different social agendas at the national level. Out of that competition (or lack of it) emerges the overall framework structuring inequality, social welfare and redistributive mechanisms, education, and the political balance of power.
The mosaic of institutions, legislation, practices, and political alliances which emerges at this level very much colors the milieu in which each worker makes choices 20 A context for studying work in their own world of work. The outcomes at the national or “meso” level set parameters limiting the choices available to individuals when they think about their work. The literature on industrial relations and labor law in Japan at the meso level is abundant. It tends to be framed largely in terms of how institutions function from the point of view of policymakers.
Less emphasis has been placed on how that framework delineates the choices confronting workers on an everyday basis. This volume considers how the meso level impinges on those choices and affects labor process in Japan’s external labor markets. This book does not seek to provide a de? nitive introduction to all aspects of work in Japan. In focusing on the meso or national level, it has left discussion of in-house concerns at the ? rm level for another volume. Such a volume would also consider more carefully the everyday life concerns and the ways work and individual life courses are conceptualized within the context of the family.
Although work organization is increasingly coming to be in? uenced by international bodies (such as the WTO or the ILO) and by the diffusion of international standards across a wide range of domains (including social welfare, education, skill classi? cations, working conditions, and labor market reform), these in? uences are also beyond the scope of this book. Written as an introduction to the world of work in Japan, this volume is conceived as an eclectic exercise. Several disciplines deal with work. The sociology of work has been greatly enriched by reference to a wide range of competing paradigms.
An effort was made in writing this volume to introduce a range of paradigms providing insight into how work is organized in Japan, and the views of those in industrial relations, management studies, the organizational and administrative sciences, philosophy, anthropology, and psychology are incorporated. The study of work also embraces a concern with comparative issues. Here it is important to balance an emphasis on Japan’s uniqueness with an awareness of the universal. Japan is a society with a long social history.
Over many centuries various traditions and practices developed which continue to shape the organization of work in Japan and the vocabulary for talking about work. While Wigmore’s volumes on commercial practices in Tokugawa Japan (1969–75) suggest that it would be wise to eschew gross generalizations about work, even when referring to traditional Japan, a discernible rhythm to work in contemporary Japan nevertheless distinguishes it from work elsewhere. Knowledge of that ethos provides a general mindset or common ground for the Japanese to exchange views about work.
At the same time, the way work is experienced in contemporary Japan varies greatly as a result of one’s positioning in a complex The Japanese at work 21 and very segmented labor market. Moreover, the organization of work is increasingly being shaped by the logic of production technologies found elsewhere and by developments in the global economy. Over the years, the debate on convergence and divergence has centered on Japan because it was the ? rst Asian nation to industrialize (e. g. see Cole 1971; Rohlen 1974).
Social scientists and other observers were interested in whether Japan’s Asianness or its industrialization would be the more in? uential factor shaping social life in Japan. Those believing in convergence (such as Cole 1971) argued that Japanese society would gradually become more like Western societies as it adopted similar industrial technologies. They saw convergence as a logical outcome of the push to modernize. Other scholars (such as Rohlen 1974) argued that Japanese society would remain culturally and socially distinct, re? ecting Japan’s different history and its unique culture.
Rather than being dominated by the logic of industrialism, they argue, Japan has achieved new levels of economic choice which will allow it increasingly to articulate its difference in economic terms and in the way work is organized. A third position was taken by Dore (1973), who argued that reverse convergence might occur, a position which seems reasonable given the overseas interest in Japanese-style management in the 1980s. A fourth, less optimistic, scenario would be that associated with Huntington’s (1992) notion of civilizations tenaciously ? hting to survive and constantly jostling for position in the new world order. Whatever the process of cultural diffusion and social change might be, the preceding discussion in this chapter has underlined the importance of considering the Japanese experience with work in a comparative perspective and in terms of its linkages to the experiences of other countries. The continuing debate on convergence and divergence raises interesting and challenging questions about the nature of social change. The debate has also injected into discussions of work in Japan the important distinction between function and form.
Cole’s (1971) discussion of functional equivalents allows us to see similarities in terms of the overall functioning of society, while cultural differences remain in terms of forms. 1. 7 The structure of this volume This chapter has provided a broad context in which the political economy of work links hours of work to the nation’s economic competitiveness. The next chapter introduces the Japanese literature on work, focusing on the sociology of work and its attention to the paradoxical coexistence of high levels of commitment to work and high levels of alienation born out of 2 A context for studying work the harsh conditions under which many Japanese have labored. It discusses eight streams of scholarship dealing with work and tells the story of the uncovering of a dual consciousness among Japan’s employees. On the distributive side, the poor working conditions and the constraints imposed by management at the place of work are mentioned. The other concern has been with ef? ciency – the dictates of the market and the realities of the ? rm as a socioeconomic entity.
Although it is the acceptance of “managerial wisdom” that is usually associated with paternalism and Japanese-style management, traditional concerns with social justice and the associated emic vocabulary in the union movement still surface in the everyday lives of employees and their families. Chapter 3 develops further the framework beginning to take shape in chapter 2. It identi? es four paradigmatic approaches for considering work in contemporary Japan, and then introduces four in? uential ? gures writing about work in contemporary Japan.
It concludes by presenting a multilevel framework for considering work organization in Japan. Chapter 4 presents data on hours of work in Japan, the aspect of workways in Japan most commonly cited in the literature on Japan’s international competitiveness as setting Japan apart from advanced industrialized economies. As mentioned above, some cite long hours of work as evidence of a strong commitment to the ? rm and to an especially strong work ethic in Japan. For others, the same long hours symbolize the extremes of unbridled competition and the excesses of an ultra-Fordist approach to regimenting work.
While the chapter concludes that hours of work in Japan are probably long compared to those in many other similarly industrialized societies, it also recognizes the long-term trend toward shorter hours of work, and eschews a tendency to exaggerate the extent to which work in Japan is characterized by excessively long hours. The remaining chapters focus on the meso-level milieu in which choices about work are made by most Japanese individuals in the context of their families. They describe a milieu in which many Japanese choose to work or feel impelled to work long hours.
They identify as the main reason for the continuing trend toward a shorter work year in Japan the gradual loosening of structural constraints rather than changing cultural values per se. Chapters 5 and 6 consider how the labor market is structured. Chapters 7 and 8 consider how labor law and redistributive social policies provide parameters shaping industrial relations and civil minimums for Japan’s workers. Chapters 9 and 10 provide brief overviews of management organizations and labor unions which, along with the government and bureaucracy of Japan, share power in determining those parameters and minimums.
The Japanese at work 23 The volume concludes with a look to the future, commenting on how the elements go together and on the issues that have begun to surface at the beginning of the twenty-? rst century as the economy and society of Japan continue to internationalize in the face of globalization. Returning to some of the issues raised in this chapter, the conclusion comments on tensions currently shaping discussions about the future of work in Japan. As an introduction to understanding work in Japan, this volume is written with two principal audiences in mind.
The ? rst consists of students who are informed about industrial relations and the sociology of work but who do not have a knowledge of work in Japan. The second consists of students who possess a basic knowledge of Japanese society but do not have a full grasp of issues concerning work. In providing an introduction to the world of work in Japan, the authors seek to provide a perspective useful in considering the following questions: (1) Why have the Japanese worked longer hours in the postwar period? 2) How do meso-economic, political, and social environments limit the choices Japanese employees have regarding their work? (3) Who are the major actors shaping the choices which Japanese workers have at the meso level? (4) How much variation is there in the environments in which Japanese workers ? nd themselves? (5) In what meso-level context are workways practiced in Japan, and how does the Japanese context differ from those found elsewhere in other similarly advanced economies? (6) How are certain interests served by the competing perspectives on the above questions? 7) What forces exist to change the way work is presently conducted in Japan? While no chapter will deal with all of these questions, it is the authors’ earnest desire that the volume as a whole will assist readers in formulating their own answers to the questions listed above. As in any introductory treatment, the brushstrokes are necessarily broad; signi? cant details and some issues have been glossed over. Nevertheless, the authors have endeavored to provide a snapshot that will capture the complexities characterizing work organization in Japan.
They welcome any feedback and hope there will be an opportunity to revise their thinking in future writings on work in Japan. 2 Toward a sociology of work in postwar Japan 2. 1 Perspectives on work in Japan Scholars researching the organization of work in Japan can be characterized in terms of their interaction with eight scholarly traditions. Each grouping has had its own traditions, professional associations, and publishing outlets. Many scholars have worked across several of these traditions in their efforts to understand how work is organized in Japan and what the resultant processes have meant for Japan, for the Japanese ? m, and for the individual Japanese worker. Although one can delineate a number of coherent intellectual approaches as distinct streams of scholarship, one must also recognize that they overlap. This chapter has three aims. One is to introduce eight streams of research on work in Japan and to indicate how the insights of each bear on our understanding of how work is organized in Japan. The second is to trace some of the main arguments that have emerged in the attempt to grasp how individual workers have come to develop a work ethic.
These overviews are presented as a means of encouraging readers to develop multiple perspectives when formulating their views on the work ethic in Japan. The third aim is to have readers think about the methodology of studying work. Compared with the approach taken to studying work by many scholars in North America and Europe, Japanese intellectuals have been reluctant to engage in participant observation or extended participation. Rather, they have conducted in-depth interviews with broad crosssections of workers.
Exceptions include Kamata (1973 and 1982), a journalist who worked at a subsidiary of the large automobile manufacturer, Toyota. Another would be Shimizu (1996), a novelist who has drawn on earlier work experiences to portray the workplace and its inhabitants. Although a small number of labor sociologists in Japan have shown an interest in methodologies which result in interaction with working people, the paucity of close encounters with the workplace and its inhabitants in Japanese studies of work contrasts with the heavy reliance on 24
Toward a sociology of work in postwar Japan 25 such approaches by foreign scholars studying work in Japan. The studies by Cole (1971), Rohlen (1974), Clark (1979), the contributors to Plath (1983), Kondo (1990), Dalby (1985), and others rely on participant observation or other methods of close interactive observation and stand out in this regard. The next section of this chapter provides a brief overview of various competing paradigms or streams of research that provide insight into how work is organized in Japan.
The development of the sociology of labor is then discussed, with a focus on worker motivation. The following section considers four paradigmatic approaches used by contemporary writers on work in Japan. 2. 2 Eight intellectual traditions focused on understanding work in Japan Although there is much overlap, meaningful distinctions can be drawn between the approaches to studying work organization in terms of (a) the phenomena on which each focuses, (b) the sense of relevance and the outcome most commonly sought, (c) research methodology, and (d) the unit of analysis most frequently used.
An overview of the major approaches is presented in table 2. 1. A full list of the main persons associated with each of the streams would show that many individuals have been active in more than one stream. The world of work has generated debate among Japanese academics and other intellectuals over the past hundred years. One concern has been with understanding how new technologies alter organizational requirements and power relations in ways that fundamentally in? uence work culture and practices, the social strati? ation matrix, and the lines of cleavage that fragment or segment the labor force and the larger society. Another focus has been the mobilization and melding of the labor force to achieve the aims of the state. A third has been the effect of new products and services on Japan’s consumer culture and on the work ethos of ordinary citizens as they attempt to mesh their work life (on the production side) with family life and a certain standard of living (on the consumption side).
Over the years attention has focused on what appears to be the paradox of the Japanese work ethic: the general tendency of Japanese to accept long hours of work and other forms of discipline without the full returns or the rewards generally associated with having done concomitant work in many other advanced economies. The discussion tends to progress from a consideration of approaches most concerned with the social context in which work occurs to those more focused on individual outcomes. A loosely chronological order is Table 2. Approaches to understanding labor processes and the organization of work in Japan E. Human resource management (Japanese-style management) Nihonteki keiei ron Japan America England France America Japan Labor process The workers’ consciousness Union behavior Rodo keizaigaku Rodo shakaigaku Rodo kagaku Germany F. Labor economics G. H. Sociology of work Science of work (Labor sociology) A. Social policy B. Studies on the labor movement C. Industrial sociology/ anthropology D. Industrial relations Japanese term America Shakai seisaku ron Rodo undo ron Sangyo shakaigaku (roshi kankei ron) Sangyo jinruigaku
Roshi kankei ron Intellectual origins Germany England Japan England America Phenomena most concerned with Workability of state policies concerning work arrangement Labor unions and labor movement Institutions which structure and facilitate the organization of work at the ? rm level Personnel System for the management regulation of the collective (organized) strategies interests of the state, employers, and workers Workings of the labor market as it determines the composition of the work force, labor mobility, wages, and other working conditions More effective abor market and allocation of labor in terms of having an ef? cient economy Physiology of work and fatigue Poverty (household expenditures and the uses of time) Signi? cant outcome sought from research Social unity (fairness and integration of worker into society) maximizing social ef? ciency Government policy documents Government statistics Case studies based on interviews with management Company documents A more effective labor movement which better serves the interests of a workers vis-` -vis the interests of monopoly capital
Understanding of work organization The management of alienation generated by work arrangements Economic development Effective personnel management Healthy work A more egalitarian society force for workers and managers A more effective union movement Main methodology Government policy Documents and statistics Interviews with labor leaders Union documents Attitudinal and behavioral surveys Government and industry-based survey data and statistics Enterprise surveys Interviews with workers (Participant) observation of the workplace Physiological experiments Observation of the workplace
Case studies based on interviews with key players System disputes Management organization Culture TSUDA Masumi IWATA Ryushi NAKAYAMA Ichiro HAZAMA Hiroshi KOIKE Kazuo SANO Yoko ONO Akira SHIMADA Haruo ODAKA Kunio MATSUSHIMA Shizuo HAZAMA Hiroshi KAWANISHI Hirosuke KAMATA Satoshi KUMAZAWA Makoto SHIMIZU Ikko and similar novelists The individual and mechanisms Division of work The worker The union Body Surveys of individuals Historical documents Analysis of household records and time sheets Major unit of analysis NAKAYAMA Ichiro KOSHIRO Kazutoshi HANAMI Tadashi The state and national policy The union Employee and interpersonal relations
Main Japanese writers associated with the approach OKOCHI Kazuo KOSHIRO Kazutoshi HANAMI Tadashi TOTSUKA Hideo YAMAMOTO Kiyoshi HYODO Tsutomu SHIRAI Taishiro FUJITA Wakao MATSUSHIMA Shizuo MANNARI Hiroshi OKAMOTO Hideaki FUJIMOTO Takeshi SHIMOYAMA Fusao KAGOYAMA Kyo KAROSHI Bengodan Major academic associations Nihon Rodo Kenkyu Zasshi Soshiki Gakkai Nenpo Kei-eishi Gakkai Nenpo Shakai Seisaku Rodo Undo Gakkai Kenkyusha Shudan Nihon Roshi Kankei Kenkyu Kyokai Nihon Roshi Kankei Kenkyu Kyokai Soshiki Gakkai Kei-eishi Gakkai Rodo Kagaku Major journals Shakai Seisaku Gakkai Nenpo Gekkan Rodo Mondai Nihon Rodo Kenkyu Zasshi
Major research organizations Solomon Levine Ronald Dore Nihon Rodo Kenkyu Kiko Nihon Rodo Kenkyu Kiko Richard Pascale William Ouchi Robert Ballon Ronald Dore Robert Evans Koji Taira KOIKE Kazuo Jon Woronoff Robert Cole Rodo Kagaku Kenkyujo Main writers in English to consult Sheldon Garron Ehud Harari Joe Moore Robert Cole Andrew Gordon Ronald Dore Matthew Allen Rodney Clarke Thomas Rohlen 28 A context for studying work followed to provide the reader with some sense of how each intellectual milieu and ethos has evolved. A cursory examination of the competing intellectual traditions reveals that their development re? cts not only stages in Japan’s industrial development, but also distinct periods in the political and social economy of Japan and the Japanese state. 2. 2. 1 The Social Policy School ( Shakai Seisaku Gakkai) As an urban working class began to emerge at the end of the nineteenth century, the “labor problem” (rodo mondai) (the tensions arising out of poor or exploitative working conditions and the need for intervention to protect many in the labor force) began to draw the attention of policymakers and those with a serious interest in the directions in which the nation was heading.
Leaders in late developers like Japan and Germany knew from the experience of early developers like the United Kingdom that serious social unrest could easily result from the dislocations associated with industrialization. In Germany the Society for the Study of Social Problems was formed in 1872 to promote studies facilitating the state taking an active role in regulating work and industrial relations, so that the nation could develop and modernize as quickly as possible.
Soon afterwards the Japanese government began sending students to study social policy in Germany, with the expectation that it too would develop policies to expedite Japan’s modernization and industrialization by carefully dealing with a range of problems emerging from the dislocation and poor working conditions experienced by its labor force. If not managed properly, it was held, the tensions produced by rapid social and economic change could seriously delay or even derail Japan’s efforts to develop.
The Japanese state at that time was being structured around an imperial ideology that promoted and legitimated paternalistic approaches to work organization. To implement that ideology, policies were developed to repress independent labor unionism. In that climate, the study of labor unions and the working class was beyond the imagination of those who formed Japan’s Society for the Study of Social Policy (Shakai Seisaku Gakkai) in 1896. The Society’s ? rst national conference in 1907 focused on “The Factory Law and the Labor Problem” and supported the ameliorative approach being taken by “responsible” leaders at