Privatization and jiko sekinin

by Sayaka Maeda

Anne Allison analyzed the movement toward “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin) in her book Precarious Japan. She said that the Koizumi administration went ahead with the policy: aligning with big business, privatizing more and more of government services under the banner of jko sekinin, and investing too little in social programs, including welfare, and it lead to falling worker’s wages, and increase of homelessness. She argued that Japan is already exposed to poverty.

I agree jiko sekinin has brought those negative points. Privatization causes cost cuts, and the reduced costs are labor costs. Therefore, the number of the unemployed and non-regular employment increases, or the workers may be fired, and some people lose their home, and become homeless and net café refugees. In addition, compared with state-owned companies, private companies need to seek profit. Therefore, I think there are national companies which should not privatize.

However, privatization has merits. First, it increases efficiency and productivity. In addition, the competition among companies occurs, and service and technology improve. Government’s income also increases.

Although privatization causes a lot of problems, and even if a privatized company benefits, the victims (by personnel cuts) should not exist. I think it is important to have limited government where jiko sekinin is needed, but social welfare should be assured for the right that people can live with security.

Now many of state-run companies were privatized, for example, the post office, JR (the former national railway), and some airports. Allison also talked about the Gold plan, which is the policy in which the government has shifted more responsibility to individuals and introduced measures to restructure care away from doctors and hospitals to more home-based care. These days, it is discussed whether a public nursery school should be privatized or not. By the privatization, they can increase the number of nursery schools, and receive more children, however, it becomes difficult to employ nursery school teachers for a long time.

On April 2014, the government increased the consumption tax from 5 % to 8 % to improve social welfare, for example, medical care and pensions, to address the aging population and declining birthrate. I think we have to watch whether the government properly uses our tax. In precarious Japan, I think the government should take measures as soon as possible.

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Path Forward

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

by Jea Jeongmin

Modern Japanese society faces lots of difficulties. The decline in marriage and birth rates causes an aging society, and the rise of “hikikomori” and suicide have been recent social problems. If this goes on, the number of unattended deaths will be increasing. Also, the rate of working-age population who will have to support the Japanese economy will decrease and we will not be able to afford the social welfare expense and sustention of finance.

In addition, all people in Japan should have equal rights, such as right to vote or to get employed. For example, foreign people in Japan do not have the right to vote in elections. Also, historically, there has been some social discrimination against permanent Korean residents in Japan in terms of getting a job or housing. When Japanese people found out the fact that Korean people apply for a job or house, they reject Korean people for no reason. Nowadays, however, the situation has been getting better compared to the past. However, this historical evidence remains in Japanese society and they feel that they have been discriminated by Japanese society.

As mentioned above, there are so many social issues in Japan that must be solved to make the future better. When it comes to who will be able to solve these serious issues and change the darker Japanese society, it would be the Japanese government. As for aging society, the reason why Japanese society turned into aging is because percentage of unmarried people is increasing and birth rate is decreasing. What the government has to do to solve this problem is establish a social security system like a system of childcare leave. Japanese government must realize the fact that Japanese economy will fall into a decline if the aging society progresses. In order to stop the recession in the future, Japanese government needs money to establish the social system so that Japanese government should increase the tax more as they are doing right now. Then, Japanese government uses money in an appropriate way, that is, establishing great social welfare system to rebuilt the Japanese economy.

In addition, in terms of having equal rights, foreign people should have the right to vote so that a number of immigration will be increasing in the future in Japan. Foreign workers will be necessary in Japan because young population will be decreasing. If foreign people realize the fact that Japan is acceptable country without having to naturalize, there will be possibility that more foreign people will come to Japan to work.

In conclusion, in order to get economy better from these present problems in Japan, Japanese government leads from the front and take some actions.

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Hope in precarious times

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

Almost all people may have desires to be something or to have good lives. However, old people in Japan often say that young people do not have any dreams. In fact, Japan is facing several difficult problems. The situation is severe and makes us gloomy, but it cannot make us give up at all. We younger people have more hopes for our future than they think. No one can jump to the conclusion of someone’s life.

As for me, I have a dream to be a person who can make someone happy and smile as a worker and a person. I really want to get the job which I can help people like refugees. So my biggest aim is to join an international organization. I’m interested in a civil war or developing countries and actually want to play a role in foreign countries.

Frankly speaking, I have no plan to work in Japan because Japan as a nation is too precarious. I think it is difficult for me to see Japan’s future. Many experts say Japan will not able to avoid a decline. Allison’s book also describes the problems Japan is having now. In particular, an aging society with a low birthrate is one of the biggest problems. It will be a burden of our lives. Speaking from my experience, an old woman who lived in front of my house tried to kill herself by jumping from her house. She was alone and lonely in her house and often said to neighbors that “I want to die because I have no reason why I live anymore”. In the end, she was saved, but no one has seen her since then.

Japan has the problems not only about the population, but about individuals. In this case, she needed an ibasho, as Allison’s book showed. What is ibasho? It is even difficult to explain. I think it is where someone feels peace of mind. In my case, when I am with my friends, I feel it is my ibasho. Maybe this is a common. Moreover, when I do what I want. Getting ibasho seems to be easy, however, some people feel it difficult. This may be mental problem. Therefore, it is difficult to explain.

Last of all, I will try my best to achieve my dream even if many people say it impossible. Now Japan has so many problems and is precarious. But it cannot break our dreams, because success depends on ourselves. This is all I want to say. We shouldn’t be pessimistic.

Reference

Anne Allison. 2013. Precarious Japan. Duke University Press

Gender Equality in Work Place Will Protect Japanese Economy

by Eriko Maruyama

The Japanese society is facing serious economic problems, such as stagnant GDP growth, aging population, raising unemployment rates. In response to these issues, the Japanese government is now trying to encourage women to enter the labour market. The employments of women in Japan are around 60 percent, while those of men are 80 percent (OECD). The Economist magazine (2012) estimated that if this gap of employment rates were improved, GDP of Japan would grow at 9 percent by 2020. As this statistic suggested, it is important to promote women to enter the labour market. In order to achieve this, we need to create new working environment which enables men and women to reconcile their jobs and housework. It is important to target not only women but also men, because the problem of gender is not only about women. It is a problem of both men and women.

Firstly, we need to start with remaking of system of companies. Companies should allow employees to work flexibly. For example, we can work everywhere with high tech devices today. We do not need to go to companies any more. We can have meetings in different places thorough Internet, or we can share documents on web clouds. Thus, companies have become less important places. If employee could do their job at home, they could finish housework and do childcare at the same time.

Nevertheless, still we need to go to work places, especially for people who work for factories and service sector. Therefore, it is necessary to create places which take care of children. There are not enough number of nursery schools and kindergarten in Japan now, so many mothers give up their job and engage in childcare. I would suggest that employing the retired people as carers of children. It is estimated that one of four people would be over 60 by 2030 in Japan, and as we can see, the elderly is very active after retirement. If it was encouraged to employ these active grandparent for taking care of children, parents could engage in their jobs and also the elderly could stay healthy. It is a win-win relation. If the government pushed women into labour force without enough support, women would be blamed for neglecting housework, and this would promote women’s returning to home again. In order to prevent this phenomenon, it is important to enhance the childcare systems.

In short, in order to sustain economic growth in Japan, it is necessary to create more flexible working environment which enables more people to enter labour market. At the same time, the government should implement social policies and provide more childcare systems in order for parents to focus on their jobs. It is expected for government to see gender issue as the interconnected problem of both women and men.

Bibliography

OECD (n.d.). OECD Better Life Index Japan. Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/japan/

The Economist (2012). The Contribution of Women. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/economic-and-financial-indicators/21564857

The immigrant issue in Japan

by Asako Morita

Because the lecture last week by guest speaker was quite inspiring, I decided to research more about immigrant in Japan. Even though Japan has been welcoming more immigrants these days, it is still far from multicultural society compared to other countries. Therefore, as guest speaker insisted, the issues and problems of minority are easily ignored or invisible to the masses until minority in a trouble raises voice as a group. Then I would like to seek how Japanese government should make the policy to invite more immigrants.

First, I would like to demonstrate general information about immigrants in Japan. According to the statistic of national census, more than 2 million foreign workers are now in Japan. This number is still low compared to other developed countries such as the U.S. but it is almost increased twice than 10 years ago. 1.6 millions of people are from Asia and Chinese is the major immigrants in 2011. The next biggest number is from South America especially from Brazil. In the total number, almost half of them are women. However, like 75 percent of Philippines immigrants are women, the number of sex rate is quite different from each country. Because more and more immigrants or foreign workers have come to Japan, issues are getting defined.

Second, I would like to analyze what issues immigrants and foreign workers in Japan have. The one of the biggest issue is about an employment. Now, Japan is facing the issue of dwindling birthrate and an aging population. The concern from presence situation is shrinking of the labor force. On top of that, Japan is now in a depression so what enterprises in Japan have needed was the expectation of wage control. Then companies want 20 to 30 years old young simple labors and expected workers to go home before they get old. However, this turning over of young foreign workers cannot solve the issue of decreasing labor force. On the contrast, if a specific age group stays in Japan, Japanese composition of population becomes distorted.

Although if Japan succeeds in receiving numbers of immigrants, they may have hard time get used to living in Japanese society. Because Japanese life style is quite different from others, a friction might be caused and mass of immigrants would make a community by country where someone is from. Once Japanese government promotes to accelerate to receive immigrates, it is hard to stop it even though the situation changes.

Therefore, what I suggest is that Japan should make up the comfortable working environment for elderly people, women and foreign workers who are eager to work. And also, Japan has to break away from winning low cost competition model. Not only young simple foreign labors but also more and more skilled foreign workers should be welcomed. This is the way Japan survives in global economy under globalization.