The Society for the Study of Social Policy was established in 1897. It is one of the oldest academic societies for the social sciences in Japan. However, its activities were terminated in 1924 because of political conflict in the Society. In 1950 it was re-established and recommenced academic activities. By the 1990s the Society had become inactive, and so reform was begun in 1994. Consequently the Society's research fields were enlarged and the number of members has been increasing. Many scholars other than economists joined the Society, making it increasingly interdisciplinary. The crisis of the Society occurred because of its mal-adaptation to changes in actual social policy. Though social policies can function to promote decommodification at the stage of welfare state, the dominant theory of the Society does not recognize this. As a result, there are no social policy scholars working in the existing social policy areas in Japan. Reforms since the mid-1990s have enabled the Society to make progress in policy studies, but this improvement has not brought results in advancing the existing social policies. It is necessary to continue the reform and make efforts to apply research results to actual social policies.
Poverty is a 'fact' measurable by scientific poverty studies. Anti-poverty policies have directly responded to this 'fact'. This naive understanding is just a one-sided picture. Another view is that poverty is a product of the broader social policy context in which poverty has been dealt with directly and indirectly. What we perceive as poverty or whom we regard as impoverished today is greatly influenced by the social policy contexts of the past and the present. Thus grasping the characteristics of social policies inevitably accompanies poverty studies in a specific society. However little attention has been given to this point in either poverty and social policy studies in Japan. This paper takes up three important issues of social policy in Japan, which are supposed to obscure a poverty line or conceal some types of poverty. The first is the issue of complex and uncoordinated minimum standards of living in different policies. The second issue is that 'bypass' policies have been developed for some types of poor people outside main policies. The third is that the poor in need of care have been dealt with within the social service framework.
People's daily livelihoods can be ensured in a sustainable way and opportunities for social participation secured when government social policy measures such as social security, tax systems and labor market regulations are closely articulated with institutions, including family, enterprise, and not-for-profit organizations and their practices. I refer to this mechanism as a whole as the "livelihood security system." Conversely, the dysfunction or reverse function of the livelihood security system engenders social exclusion. This paper argues that social exclusion in Japan is serious as an extra-legality related to social insurance schemes and labor market casualization, which have caused increasing income inequality and relative poverty. Youth and women are excluded both within and outside the labor market, while the casualization of employment is widely used by management to avoid the burden of social insurance premiums. And social insurance offices have not only tacitly permitted but actually encouraged employers to erase pension records, and unlawfully engaged in making "exemptions" from pension premium payments and "absentee registrations," in order to raise the contribution ratio. This indicates that the Social Insurance Agency, as an organization that is supposed to exercise jurisdiction over the pension scheme, was a leading party to extra-legal practices.
It is often said that Japanese traditional institutionalism in labor studies (JTILS) isn't necessarily useful for analyzing current problems, like inequality and poverty among workers. This kind of obsolescence in JTILS is caused by two blind spots: inattention to the renewal of theories about institutions and the breaking of relations with welfare studies. In order to conquer this weakness, theories about institutions of employment and their evolution in the 20th century are reconsidered, and the nexus of employment and welfare is shown in this paper. On the basis of this reconsideration, I discuss three problems currently confronting Japanese workers and propose four hypothetical propositions: (1) The institution of employment itself is still robust in the 21st century. (2) The employment system of the last century is changing, and can be transformed flexibly. (3) The new employment system will not be legitimated without overcoming the negative side of the old employment system. (4) For JTILS, cooperation with welfare studies is indispensable to analyzing current labor problems. Lastly, I briefly address some research agendas.
Since the mid-1990's, the comparative study of welfare states and social policy in Japan has been strongly influenced by international research trends. However, these comparative studies are now at a turning point because severe criticisms have been aimed at them. The aim of this paper is to clarify what comparative study has accomplished and what remains undone, and what challenges face us still. First, I examine the unsolved problems during the fifteen years that have passed since the appearance of Esping-Andersen's Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Especially, it is stressed that it is crucial to develop a 'dynamic' analysis of welfare states and social policy with eliminating the previous static typology. Second, by examining arguments about the East Asia Welfare Regime, I advance the argument that many East Asian states remain 'productivism' welfare regimes. In conclusion, it is stressed that comparative research in the future must contribute to fruitful debates about policies that influence the future trajectories of Japan and other East Asian states.
Since the collapse of the political consensus on the welfare state, the role of normative analysis in social policy studies has become more important. This article has two objectives: The first is to review how normative analysis applies to this area, and the second is to examine workfare using normative analysis. The main argument drawn from the former objective is that while introducing normative theories is the most popular approach to social policy studies, we should be cautious when using those developed by famous philosophers with regard to particular social policies. The examples in this paper show how theories by Amartya Sen, Robert Norzik and John Rawls are used. In particular, Rawls' advocacy of workfare is closely investigated, but I suggest that justifications for workfare, which are powerful and frequently expressed, are tautological and are based on moral judgments that are usually unspoken. This failure of actually existing discourses for workfare does not connote the impossibility of any justification for either actually existing workfare or fair (but not yet existing) workfare, neither position one which I would try to justify.