Fachgruppensitzung Politik 2018

Understanding the Constitutional Democratic Party: Its Characteristics, Ideology and Social Structure (Felix SPREMBERG, University of Tübingen)

There is very little research on the biggest opposition party of Japan – the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP). However, understanding the CDP is important, since it currently seems to be the only political force which could act as an ideological and programmatic alternative to the LDP, which returned to its dominant position thereby reviving Japans „uncommon democracy“ (Pempel) of the Shōwa-period. This presentation will shed light on the characteristics, ideology and social structure of the CDP and assess its outlook by a comparison with its unsuccessful predecessor, the DPJ.

Firstly, I will analyse the genesis of the CDP in October 2017 as a splinter of the DPJ and will discuss the role and characteristics of the new party from a historical perspective. I will argue that the CDP has much more promising general features including leadership, coherence, attitude towards power and attractiveness. By analysing the party’s ideology, I will show that the CDP presents itself as a relatively coherent left alternative to the LDP by emphasizing equality, diversity, ecological policies, minority and gender rights, as well as a firm anti-nuclear standpoint. It also carries on the pacifist tradition of the Japanese left, which allows the party to cooperate with the more ideologically rigid Social Democrats and Communists. Interestingly it has almost completely dropped the concept of „kaikaku“ (reform). This is a clear departure from the ‚reform party‘ DPJ as well as the general trend of ‚reform as a substitute for ideology‘ (Klein) in Japan.

We can understand this ideological change by a look at the party structure, which is very different from the DPJ. The CDP does neither include the conservative factions of the former DPJ nor the Minshatō, which represents big business, including nuclear energy interests, and therefore obstructed an anti-nuclear and ecological strategy. However, the CDP has not overcome factionalism since the party consists of two factions, of which one is closely allied with public labour unions.

Deliberative Innovations – Curing the Malaise of Japanese Representative Democracy? (Momoyo HÜSTEBECK, University of Duisburg-Essen, IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies)

Like other established democracies, Japan has faced challenges to democracy which threaten fundamental ideals, such as liberal rights, equality or legitimacy. To counteract this (partial) „crisis“ of representative democracy, the last two decades in Japan have seen the governmental implementation of a striking number of democratic innovations in participatory policy-making processes. Against this empirical backdrop, I ask based on concepts of democratic quality and evaluations of democratic innovations whether participatory democracy can improve the quality of Japanese representative democracy. Choosing from a vast number of democratic innovations, this study focuses specifically on new forms of deliberations in Japan. I provide the samples of two deliberative methods: local planning cells (keikaku saibō or shimin tōgikai) and the first national Deliberative Poll (tōgigata yoron chōsa) in 2012. Citizens discussed in the latter case the shut-off of Japanese nuclear power-plants by 2030. The paper highlights the merits und challenges of strengthening deliberative democracy by carefully evaluating these two empirical cases.

The Other Labour Movement: Community Unions‘ Role in Japanese Labour Revitalisation  (Jan NIGGEMEIER, Freie Universität Berlin, Graduate School of East Asian Studies)

Organised labour in Japan is characterised by a dominance of corporatist enterprise unions. Despite a growing casualisation and precariousness of work as well as signs of a legitimacy crisis due to a decreasing unionisation rate and a deteriorating access to policy-making on labour issues, the mainstream of Japanese trade unions remains hesitant to expand their scope of representation beyond their core constituency of regularly-employed workers. In contrast, locally-based or social group-constituted so-called community unions strategically target this niche in focusing on the organisation of the growing group of irregularly-employed, as the most vulnerable members of the workforce. Often inspired by examples from abroad and with a strong rooting in civil society, these small-scale organisations of labour activism on the grassroots-level develop innovative and much more flexible and inclusive forms of workers’ representation. This research project elucidates transformations within the broader Japanese labour movement along examples of diverse forms of community unionism. It aims to find out, how factors of strategic decision-making about organisational structures, approached agendas as well as applied tactics vary among different examples of community unions. The strategic role of community unions as challengers vis-à-vis mainstream trade unions as incumbents within the organisational field of the Japanese labour movement is analysed through the application of the meso-level theoretical model of Strategic Action Fields by Fligstein and McAdam (2012), which intersects between social movement- and organisationtheory. This research argues that Japanese community unions are not a coherent phenomenon but show up variation in their strategic decision-making and field positionality. As field challengers, they succeed in pointing out imitable alternatives of workers’ organisation as well as representation vis-à-vis the established corporatist trade union system and thus initiate revitalising field transformation of Japanese labour. The analysis is based on in-field research conducted in Japan, including interviews with organisers and members of trade unions and several different community union organisations as well as participant observation within group activism.

Regulating for Welfare? The Politics of Private Pension Schemes in Japan (Steffen HEINRICH, German Institute for Japanese Studies, DIJ Tōkyō)

In the comparative literature on the welfare state, Japan has long been treated as an exceptional case (e.g. Esping-Andersen 1997) that combines low social expenditure with high social equality. In the course of the last 20 years however, this picture has been radically transformed. Public expenditure since the early 1990s has reached a level similar to most Western European countries while social inequality is now widely believed to have grown. However, the recent expansion of social spending is in part a response to retrenchment elsewhere, in particular the corporate sector. Due to growing fiscal restraints Japanese governments cannot compensate corporate cuts through more fiscal spending. Instead, they need to look for new ways of more cost-efficient ways of regulating for welfare. The introduction of NISA and iDeCo schemes are the most striking examples of this new regulatory approach. Yes, unlike much of the literature on pension reforms has argued, the implications of this strategic change have so far been fairly limited. In fact, the regulatory expansion of private pension schemes has been conspicuously cautious, there has been virtually no change in how workers save for retirement and though participation rates are growing, they remain rather low. To make sense of this unexpected result, the presentation will trace the decision-making process that led to the establishment of NISA and iDeCo and discuss to what extent these schemes can indeed be understood as products of an emerging regulatory welfare state.

Understanding Government Statistics on Foreign Workers in Japan (Matthias HENNINGS, Kwansei Gakuin University)

Data on foreign workers in Japan published annually by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has been commonly treated as official government statistics on the country’s foreign workforce by mass media organizations, and, as a result, is widely reported to the public. The ministry, however, makes no claim that this data is official, accurate, or even a database of workers. In fact, the ministry collects reports on foreign workers that are submitted by employers under a special reporting system. As this presentation will show, it is possible for foreign workers to be ignored, unreported, or reported multiple times in the same year due to the rules of this system. Consequently, in addition to being based on reports rather than employees, the ministry’s figures are not even reliable indicators of the number of workers. This presentation will demonstrate that this is evident by examining the data since it was first published in 2008 and comparing it with foreign population data. It will conclude that the ministry’s data is not a relevant or accurate source of information about the size of Japan’s foreign workforce, and therefore suggest a method for estimating the total number of workers that enables more credible and realistic data than the results of the MHLW’s annual study.

Beyond „one size fits all“: Kaizen in Japan’s Development Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ruth ACHENBACH, Goethe University Frankfurt)

In their efforts to learn from the East Asian economic miracle, African political leaders, bureaucrats and company owners look for best-practice management approaches in private-sector development. A case in point is Ethiopia, where late prime minister Meles requested the implementation of Kaizen from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). From this initially request-based project, Kaizen in 2016 became one of JICA’s key policies to be rolled out to all African countries. African agents in Ethiopia and Zambia (two countries that founded national Kaizen institutes) face the challenge of how to adapt the “Japanese” management practices to their respective economic and cultural conditions. For this, they learn from the experiences in Kaizen implementation and collaborate with agents in India and Malaysia.

This presentation explores the evolution of JICA’s implementation strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing upon original qualitative data collected in 2017 in Japan, Ethiopia and Zambia from JICA officials, policy advisors, Kaizen trainers and company owners, this comparative policy analysis examines JICA’s learning process, juxtaposing it with Ethiopia’s and Zambia’s policy learning from South(East) Asian actors. It traces how Kaizen evolved from single-handedly initiated initiatives to JICA’s lighthouse strategy in African private-sector development. The study helps answer the question of how Japan contributes to African development by the means of exporting its business “culture” that also aims at democratization of workers, and thereby, arguably, nation-states.