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Social Welfare Insufficiency in Japan

‘Social Welfare for the unemployed and women is insufficient in East Asia because economic development has been prioritized over wellbeing of individuals.’

Rising through the ranks, Japan prides itself in having one of the most developed economies globally, ranking it the third-largest. Economic development forms the country’s central premise by propagating employment culture as its central labor policy (Komatsu 2016). Through propelling this agenda, Japan has prioritized developing the economy over the wellbeing of its citizens, as social welfare programs have to be vindicated based on the growth of the economy. Thus, they prioritize mainly the elderly group when it comes to welfare programs to offer them health care benefits and aid their pension plans. Furthermore, its employment culture favors the male group, as they impel the productivity regimen that transcends through Japan (Komatsu, 2016), which has seen female and unemployed individuals fall through the cracks as the social welfare programs are not skewed towards aiding them. The essay will explore how insufficient social welfare is for the unemployed and women in Japan due to the high prioritization of economic development rather than the wellbeing of its citizens.

Japan’s growth can be mainly seen from the post-war period, whereby they utilized a job-based system of welfare, which saw them mainly investing and focusing on ensuring their citizens had employment security (Fleckenstein & Lee 2017). By utilizing this route, most citizens were employed on a long-term or part-time basis, which saw the unemployment rate under three percent from the 1960s to the mid-1990s (Miura 2012). Long-term employment was skewed towards the male population as they were considered the primary breadwinners of their families. Thus, part-time jobs were allocated to females as they were supposed to be the primary caregivers of their families. To ensure employment stability, the government directed most of its spending towards growing projects in public works and introducing favorable regulatory policies for small and medium-sized businesses. The favorable policies allowed the businesses to run long-term and offer long-term employment to the citizens, mainly the male population (Rhee, Done & Anderson 2015). Through utilizing this welfare system, the development of Japan’s economy was hurled to exponential ratings.

Subsequently, with the exponential growth of the economy, the government prioritized long-term employment over all other avenues by introducing civil codes that protected the employees from being dismissed without impartial and rational reasons from their employers. Shibata (2016) further highlights that the courts offered judicial protection for employees who were dismissed under unfair circumstances and retained them back to their former positions in extremity cases. However, with these privileges at hand, the employees relinquished their life control to their jobs as they were expected to work overtime with no pay increase and be unexpectedly relocated to different branches of their companies. Most long-term employees were male; hence, they dominated the workforce industry, and their lives revolved around their jobs and not the family setting. By doing so, the development of the economy of Japan was maintained, driving their welfare agenda through work, whereby they maintained high employment rates with low-income utilization (Miura, 2012). Thus, they prioritized the economic development of the country over the overall wellbeing of their citizens as they propagated the need for high productivity.

Consequently, as the economy grew, the workforce became mainly dominated by the males who had been prioritized as the breadwinners of their families. They could enjoy job protection as they had long-term contracts, which made it harder for the female group to join the labor force as they were allocated part-time or temporary jobs (Chiavacci & Hommerich 2017). Therefore, the females could not enjoy job protection as it was accorded to long-term employees. Hence, most unmarried women who were sole breadwinners would end up being the higher statistic regarding the high poverty rates registered in Japan. Additionally, as the job-welfare system is being phased out, the female group still needs to match up to their male counterparts as the majority of the roles are taken up by the males. O’Campo et al. (2015) further argue that males still maintain the male-dominant mindset where they believe they work better than females; hence, they have taken up the most authoritative positions. Hence, the females live below the poverty line compared to their male counterparts, who are assured job protection by the government.

In Furtherance, by utilizing the job-welfare system, male citizens were assured of job protection throughout their lives as they registered the highest percentages of employment rates (Choi 2012). Furthermore, even the elderly males were assured of an employment position as long as they could work. Hence, with no new positions being created, the unemployment rate started encroaching among the youth and women, as temporary jobs could end with no assurance of permanent jobs. Moreover, with the government focusing on maintaining the employment sector, the vocational training sector ended up being significantly underdeveloped; hence training for such positions could not offer employment, increasing the unemployment rate (O’Campo et al. 2015). Given that the government’s primary focus is economic growth, funding welfare programs for the unemployed did not propagate this mission. Hence, those unemployed had the sole responsibility of finding a way to make ends meet, further showcasing how Japan prioritizes the development of the economy over the wellbeing of the citizens.

Consequently, with the main focus on work, most men spent most of their time at work, giving the country a low fertility rate and a higher aging population. Hence, in a move to protect the aging population, the government rendered it feasible to introduce social welfare programs to aid the elderly in their healthcare and livelihood upon retirement (Milly 2021). Thus, the government mainly placed its concentration on the elderly, excluding all other age groups, as it was justifiable from the perspective of economic growth. Furthermore, even with the Liberation Democratic Party extending the social welfare programs to other people, they only selected the individuals that were linked with sectors that were productive to the economy, which further pushed their need for economic production (Miura 2012). Given that those women were ranked as caregivers they did not fall under the economically productive sector of the economy hence their social welfare programs were underfunded. Moreover, the system of social insurance was skewed towards those who had occupations, and due to the low rate of employment among the females and their low wages, they were not categorized as economically productive to have their social welfare programs funded. Hence, showcasing how insufficient social welfare programs in Japan are towards women.

Subsequently, concerning the unemployed, Japan’s support for them is significantly low regarding their funding. Chiavacci and Hommerich (2017) reiterate how the pride of Japan is its high employment rate, and thus, its public support for the unemployed is almost negligible. In terms of minimal social welfare, the government only offers support to the unemployed for a short period as one undertakes a course concerning public vocational training. Once the course is over, the support is withdrawn after a short duration. Likewise, in the case of long-term unemployment, the government cannot support them as it maintains a low rate of social spending to ensure economic development (Milly 2021). Hence, they are left responsible for finding a way to improve their predicament. Additionally, even with some social welfare programs being geared toward the unemployed, the eligibility criteria are still based on those who had an occupation, rendering the majority of the unemployed not compatible with the welfare program. It further propels how economic development has been prioritized over the social welfare of the unemployed in Japan.

With Japan being among the most developed economies globally; it has achieved this by prioritizing the economy’s development over its citizens’ wellbeing. By utilizing an employment culture as its primary mode of developing the economy, unemployed citizens have been left behind without public support from their government. With the long-term workforce dominated by the male population, the female group has been left behind in the labor force without any job protection. Those who are unmarried and are sole breadwinners have to rely on the low wages that are accrued from their temporary posts. The social welfare programs are centered on economic growth and hence are accorded to the elderly population, excluding the females and the unemployed who do not serve in the sectors that are productive to the economy. Economic development is a vital part of the growth of a country. However, it should not supersede the wellbeing of the citizens, and welfare programs should be offered to assist the underprivileged in the economy, not to justify the country’s economic development.

Reference List

Komatsu, R., 2016. Welfare in Japan: Patterns and Developments. Citizenship, Europe and Change, p.128.

Fleckenstein, T. and Lee, S.C., 2017. Democratization, post-industrialization, and East Asian welfare capitalism: the politics of welfare state reform in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy33(1), pp.36-54.

Shibata, S., 2016. Resisting Japan’s neoliberal model of capitalism: intensification and change in contemporary patterns of class struggle. British journal of industrial relations54(3), pp.496-521.

Chiavacci, D. and Hommerich, C., 2017. Social inequality in post-growth Japan. Transformation during Economic and Demographic Stagnation. London ua: Routledge.

O’Campo, P., Molnar, A., Ng, E., Renahy, E., Mitchell, C., Shankardass, K., John, A.S., Bambra, C. and Muntaner, C., 2015. Social welfare matters: a realist review of when, how, and why unemployment insurance impacts poverty and health. Social Science & Medicine132, pp.88-94.

Rhee, J.C., Done, N. and Anderson, G.F., 2015. Considering long-term care insurance for middle-income countries: comparing South Korea with Japan and Germany. Health policy119(10), pp.1319-1329.

Miura, M., 2012, Welfare through work: Conservative Ideas, Partisan Dynamics and Social Protection in JapanCornell University Press, Sheffield, England

Choi J.C., 2012. End of the Era of Productivist Welfare Capitalism? Diverging Welfare Regimes in East Asia, Asian Journal of Social Science, 40(3), pp. 275-294.

Milly, D.J., 2021. Eldercare in Japan, transnational care labor, and emerging welfare regimes. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy42(1/2), pp.141-158.


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