Edited by Misa Izuhara
Chapter 20: Poverty, the working poor and social policy in East Asia: exploring the second safety net proposal in Japan
At the outset of the current economic downturn, a significant proportion of the working-age population consisted of individuals whose household income was below the poverty threshold. And many of them were living in a household where at least one person had a job, the so-called ‘working poor’. Traditionally, when assessing labour market performance, the main focus has been on unemployment or employment rates. But the public debate has recently put an increasing emphasis on in-work poverty. For governments, the problems faced by the working poor and jobless people are two pieces of the same puzzle: how to secure for them a route towards economic self-sufficiency? From this perspective, the policy goal should be the same in both cases: creating more and better jobs. However, this is a particularly demanding objective since past experience suggests that more jobs do not necessarily mean better jobs. At the same time, governments also need to put in place a solid safety net for those individuals with weak employment prospects, who may not succeed in finding a job that offers career prospects. With the ongoing severe economic downturn, these issues are becoming even more central. (OECD, 2009: 168)
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