As the editors of this volume have noted in their introduction, labour administration and related policy issues – including the extent to which nations vary in their reliance on active versus passive labour market policies – have received insufficient attention from academics in recent decades, despite what appear to be substantial changes in approaches and practices. Nations were changing the systems of governance for their labour programmes and altering the amounts and mechanisms of funding schemes, and the amounts to support them, as well as shifting the populations targeted, well before the onset of what is now widely referred to as the Great Recession. Some shifts, even since the downturn and recovery began, appear to be substantial, although it now seems unlikely that they will be anything more than temporary responses to unusual adversity, particularly given the political environment within which they have been instituted. The analysis in this chapter attempts to capture important differences and similarities in the trends in labour policy and administration in two advanced OECD countries: Japan and the USA.* Each is interesting in its own right, but comparing and contrasting them reveals useful lessons for policy-makers as well as policy researchers beyond such lessons and the particular labour market policy models they represent. Both have been leading world economic and political powerhouses and have experienced marked fluctuations in both respects. Each remains highly developed economically and has taken its own distinctive approach to labour market policy and its administration.
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