Winners and Losers in the Asia-Pacific
Edited by Noel Gaston and Ahmed M. Khalid
Chapter 11: Labor Market Transitions for Female Workers in Japan: The Role of Global Competition
Tomoko Kishi and Noel Gaston* INTRODUCTION Japan has only recently turned the corner on a dismally long decade of stagnant economic growth and unprecedented high levels of postwar unemployment. The labor market woes were coincident with the contraction of manufacturing industries. Manufacturing employment declined due to a variety of factors, for example, the protracted economic slump, financial and bad loan-related problems as well as deindustrialization and the structural shift to service sector industries. Another commonly perceived culprit has been globalization, more generally; and outsourcing, more specifically. In Japan, globalization is commonly thought to be driving the “hollowing-out” of manufacturing industry. Associated with the industrial shifts has been a significant increase in part-time and casual forms of employment as opposed to permanent, fulltime work. Some commentators regard that the growth of non-standard work arrangements is the single most important change taking place in the Japanese labor market (for example, Rebick, 2005). According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, for the 10 years to 2003, a period during which total employment in Japan stagnated, the number of parttime workers increased by 52.5 percent (MHLW, 2004). As always, there are concerns about the quality of part-time jobs compared with that of full-time work. A central plank of the Japanese government’s labor market policy has been to increase the flexibility of the labor market. Gaston and Kishi (2005) argue that certain characteristics of Japan’s unique industrial relations system may hamper rather than ease the plight of the unemployed. The need for greater...
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