Popular Participation in the Japanese Legal Process
Edited by Leon Wolff, Luke Nottage and Kent Anderson
Chapter 5: Administering welfare in an ageing society
Japan is the most rapidly ageing nation in the world. This brings with it unprecedented challenges for government in attempts to secure the welfare of all members of society at all stages of their lives. This chapter traces some of the trends in law and regulation that have occurred in Japan in response to meeting the challenges of demographic change. It argues that demographic change has catalysed new interfaces among the state, individuals and communities despite a liberal ‘renewal’ seeking to clarify and circumscribe these interfaces. These interfaces have in turn produced hybrids of public and private law. In response, some Japanese legal theorists have attempted to fill a vacuum of doctrine to conceptualise these hybrids. Moreover, these theorists attempt to map the way for courts to adjust to a new balance between liberalism and market forces on the one hand, and state paternalism and regulatory proliferation on the other. After briefly describing Japan’s demographic situation, I discuss the challenges to liberalism posed by regulatory proliferation (driven in part by demographic imperatives). I argue that liberal renewal and the growth of regulation are movements that can accommodate one another. I then trace examples of such accommodation in Japan’s legal tradition, which has been characterised by a balance of legal formalism and sensitivity to context. I attempt to demonstrate that recent liberal reforms to administrative law sit comfortably within this tradition. As case studies, I then present legal developments in the childcare and retirement pension industries.
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