SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Diversification as stratification - Work-style reform and its consequences on inequality in Japan



Prof Jun Imai (Sophia University, Tokyo)

Date: 26 February 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 26 February 2020Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

Type of Event: Seminar


Work-style reform is underway in Japan. Diversification of work-style is one of the major initiatives of the reform, which is to narrow the gap between regular and non-regular employment as well as to allow workers to work more flexibly in order to solve the problems of work-life balance. Under such circumstances, Japanese companies began to segment regular employment into various types of "limited" regular workers (gentei seishain), in much the same way as they found ippanshoku and jun-sogoshoku tracks in the 1980s and the 1990s. They are called "limited" since they do not accept unlimited flexibilities required by employers with regard to the scope of job rotation and regional transfer and working time that normal regular workers need to accept.  Some regular workers change their track from normal regular to limited regular due to their, for instance, care needs at home, or non-regular workers would be hired in this career track as the revised Labor Contract Law (in effect since 2013) mandates companies to secure unlimited term contract to the non-regular workers with long-enough tenure. The establishment of these career tracks reveals that Japanese companies (and even workers) see the ability to accept flexibilities of working time, (functional and regional) mobilities within a firm as important criteria of evaluating their employees, which is clearly shown in the fact that these tracks are associated to inferior wages and promotion prospect. The increasing diversification clearly comes along with the further stratification of workers in Japan.

Speaker Biography

Jun Imai (Ph.D. in Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook) is Professor of Sociology at Sophia University in Tokyo. Before joining Sophia, he taught at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and Tohoku University and Hokkaido University in Japan. His major field of research is the development of employment relations and its impacts on social inequalities. Recently, he is also interested in a project to understand the rise of cross-border labor market in Asia from economic sociological perspective.

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre

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