Organized Panel Session
Japan’s Abe Administration implemented labor law and market reforms collectively known as Work Style Reform (hatarakikata kaikaku) in 2019. Public debate before the passage of the reforms was dominated pro-reform commentators. They asserted that the government, desiring to maintain a stable, productive population, was committed to "progressive" labor market policies. Worker advocates, however, assailed the reform plan as thinly disguised neoliberal deregulation: a stalking horse for advancing business and hard-core conservative interests. Papers in this panel assess the emerging post-reform landscape and the effects of reform policies on economic and workplace conditions as seen by workers, union leaders, business owners, labor lawyers, and Labor Standards officials. Framed by analysis of recent macro-economic trends in Japan, our research with people on the receiving end of reform finds little evidence to support optimistic predictions of “progressive” reforms resulting in productivity gains or lifestyle improvements. The more likely consequence will be continued encouragement for the gradual degradation of employment stability, wages, worker rights protections, and workplace democracy that characterized the last 25 years in Japan. This tentative conclusion is drawn from interrelated indicators of reform outcomes, which are explored in our papers. These include macroeconomic and budgetary trend lines, women’s labor force status and social welfare support for family care, persistent wage gaps and expansion of irregular work, and health and social effects of long hours often required for full-time work. These results are early fruit of a multi-disciplinary study of implementation and enforcement of labor policy reforms in Japan.