The postwar employment system

Authored by: Charles Weathers

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter emphasizes that postwar Japan witnessed the development of the democratic world’s most cooperative labour–management relations system. The early postwar era saw the rapid rise of a strong union movement, but its influence and militancy were soon blunted by employer and government pressure. During the 1950s and 1960s, massive investment transformed the nation’s workplaces, while managers and union leaders committed to cooperative relations successfully reshaped labour management practices. This created a strong foundation for economic prosperity, and Japan’s employment and industrial relations systems were widely admired in the 1980s. However, a stiff price was paid in the neglect of work conditions and acceptance of inequalities, problems that continue to trouble the country. Today, there is general consensus that Japan’s ‘membership’-based employment system needs extensive reform, especially to reduce inequality and support working women and childrearing families.

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