Welfare Reforms in Recessionary Japan
The prolonged Heisei recession of the 1990s has become something of a boundary marker for Japan’s transition to the category of a “mature” capitalist economy beset with all the contradiction of its workings: alienation, inequality, poverty, immiserization, and consumerism.1 Of the many indicators used to capture the contrast between the “miracle economy” of earlier decades and the stagflation of the 1990s, none, perhaps, is more dramatic than Japan’s escalating unemployment rate: in 1990 it stood at 2 percent, the lowest among the OECD countries; by 2003 it had almost tripled to 5½ percent, with a rate of 10 percent for the 15–24 age group (OECD Economic Surveys Japan 2005: 174). Contrary to conventional wisdom (Wilensky 1975; Blank 2001; Andren and Gustafsson 2004; Ayala and Perez 2005), however, the rise in the numbers of unemployed in “millennial Japan” (Yoda 2001) and the shift from “miracle to debacle” (Ikeda 2004) has not seen a commensurate increase in unemployment benefit provision or public assistance relief. To the contrary, changes in welfare policy have resulted in a significant decline in both benefits and the total number of individuals in receipt of unemployment benefits.
KeywordsOECD Country Unemployment Benefit Public Assistance Welfare Reform Labour Force Survey
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