Fachgruppensitzung Soziologie und Sozialanthropologie 2018

Rural Japan’s Appeal to Old and New Residents: A Migration Analysis of two Case Studies in the Aso Region (Kumamoto) (Antonia MISERKA, University of Vienna)

Depopulation and the shrinking of Japans’ rural areas are much discussed topics, both in the academic discourse on Japanese society and in popular media. Better job opportunities and a broader range of educational institutions entice many young people to migrate from the countryside to metropolitan areas, leaving behind the elderly to sustain their community. However, a small trend of counter-urbanization—people coming back to their home municipalities or moving to rural areas without having any former connections there—exists within the shadow of larger depopulation patterns.

This study aims to add a new angle to the discourse of rural Japan and its demographic change by taking a closer look at the individual level of life in rural areas and discussing the living conditions of people living in or moving to local communities. To do so, two surveys were conducted in the Aso-Region in Kumamoto prefecture: (1) administering questionnaires in a hamlet located within the area on a meso-level (municipality); (2) interviews with people who (re-) migrated to Aso Region on a micro-level (individual). Thus, it was possible to include opinions of both old and new residents regarding the living conditions in their local communities and identify assertive „push“ and „pull“ factors for living in or migrating to the area.

By combining quantitative and qualitative approaches and including samples, both in small hamlets and more central parts of the area, it was possible to draw a more inclusive conclusion about life in rural Japan. While insufficient infrastructure and low accessibility complicate life in more remotely located hamlets, the overall satisfaction regarding the living environment seems to be high in all parts of Aso Region.

A „Happiness Capital“? The Role of Social Capital in Offsetting the Impact of Structural Decline in a Rural Japanese Community and the Interaction with Personality (Dionyssios ASKITIS, University of Vienna)

According to objective data, rural communities in Japan are faced with accelerating structural and demographic decline in recent decades. While there is mixed evidence regarding the level of happiness of rural residents over those living in urban areas, these structural deficits don’t translate into low subjective well-being in rural communities such as the small-town of Aso, Kumamoto.
Meanwhile, the major effects of social resources on well-being and their predominance in these communities has been repeatedly demonstrated. However, few studies have attempted to directly link findings on these associations with the apparent persistence of rural happiness. Happiness research has long relied in part on epidemiological studies without differentiation of small-scale environments, vague rural-urban typologies and universal happiness concepts with little regard for regional and inter-individual variations in the conception, perception and measurement of happiness. One particular factor that has been largely overlooked in social science research is personality, specifically the factor extraversion which regulates much of social behavior and has been shown to predict well-being by itself and by interacting with other predictors.

The aim of this thesis is therefore to investigate the association between social capital and well-being in rural Japan and how this relationship manifests itself when taking into account personality traits such as extraversion. It is hypothesized that social resources have a larger effect on happiness in areas with more rural characteristics and that they more than compensate for structural disadvantages in those areas. Furthermore, it is expected that the personality factor extraversion will moderate this effect by regulating the need for and well-being drawn from social interaction with the community.

As part of the greater interdisciplinary Aso 2.0 project on regional well-being at the university of Vienna, the small-town of Aso in Kumamoto prefecture with its average rural Japanese economic and demographic structure serves as a case example of all the Japanese communities that experience similar challenges associated with their marginal status. By including instruments sensitive to inter-individual and ‚Japanese‘ constructions of happiness and by contrasting proximal town wards of comparatively rural and urban characteristics with a high sample resolution this thesis addresses the measurement issues of traditional instruments and sampling. Thus, it is hoped that this dissertation project will contribute to the understanding of the complex relationship between structural decline, social capital and quality of life in contemporary rural Japan.

(Kein) Raum für uns: Räumliche Perspektiven auf Beziehungswelten lediger Erwachsener  in Tokio (Nora KOTTMANN, German Institute for Japanese Studies, DIJ Tōkyō)

Beziehungswelten lediger Menschen in Japan sind trotz einer enormen Zunahme an Singles – populärwissenschaftliche Studien im japanischen Kontext sprechen von dem Entstehen einer „Hyper-Solo-Gesellschaft“ (Arakawa 2017) – bisher kaum Gegenstand der sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschung geworden. Eine raumtheoretische Perspektive auf die Thematik, die aufgrund einiger Kontextspezifika besonders erkenntnisreich erscheint, fehlt derzeit gänzlich. Vor dem Hintergrund räumlicher Faktoren wie (erwerbsbedingter) Multilokalität, hohen Mobilitätsanforderungen, einer generellen räumlichen Enge, dem Verbleib einer Vielzahl von Erwachsenen im Elternhaus sowie einer Zunahme Alleinlebender stellen sich folgende Fragen: Wo und wie leben ledige Erwachsene unterschiedliche persönliche Beziehungen, welche ‚Räume‘ stehen zur Verfügung, welche werden angeeignet oder ggf. neu geschaffen? Welche Bedeutung kommt Kopräsenz (physisch/virtuell) und Nähe (geographisch/emotional) zu? Auf der Grundlage explorativer Interviews mit jungen Erwachsenen in Tokio im Sommer 2017 fokussiert der vorliegende Beitrag auf den ‚Wohnraum‘ und dessen mögliche Bedeutung für Paarbeziehungen. Es wird aufgezeigt, dass die Befragten diesem eine
zentrale, aber gleichzeitig ambivalente Bedeutung für das doing relationship zusprechen. Einerseits beschreiben die Befragten die eigene Wohnung (oder das eigene Zimmer in einem gemeinschaftlich genutzten Haus oder einer gemeinschaftlich genutzten Wohnung) als bedeutenden ‚Beziehungsraum’ und ein mögliches Fehlen desselben als Mangel. Andererseits wird der (eigene) Wohnraum als ‚privater Raum‘ und als ‚Rückzugsraum‘ definiert, der nur ungern geteilt wird. Neben der Präsentation vorläufiger Ergebnisse werden weiterführende Überlegungen zu Beziehungswelten (‚Intimität‘) und ‚Raum‘ sowie deren Interaktion im Kontext der

MA Project: Unions‘ Involvement in the Minimum Wage Movement: Can Social Movement Unionism Revitalize the Labor Movement in Japan? (Stefanie SCHWARTE, Universität Hamburg)

Following the labor market deregulations of the 1990s, irregular employment in Japan has dramatically risen to almost 40 percent of the workforce (MHLW 2018). Low job security and wages, limited access to corporate social welfare as well as exclusion from the career track are some of the main characteristics of irregular employment. Many of the traditional labor unions do not grant membership to irregular employees, and their agenda is focused on protecting the privileges of regular employees rather than on creating decent working conditions for both, regular and irregular employees. A steady decline in labor union membership, however, forced the unions to radically change their positions. Unions have started to accept irregular employees as members and have begun to politically address the disadvantages this group faces in terms of labor protection and wage setting.

Over the years the minimum wage has been discussed and used in the campaigns of the labor movement as well as those of political parties. Japan has a statutory minimum wage, but there are significant differences depending on the region or industry. The average minimum wage is around 848 Yen (Rengō2018) – far lower than the level which labor unions or groups like Aequitas are demanding. Aequitas is an initiative formed in September 2015 and the group members include university students, labor activists and members of various labor unions – most notably of general or community unions – who engaged in social movement unionism. They organized demonstrations between 2015 and 2017 in which they demanded a national statutory minimum wage of 1500 Yen and opposed inequality and poverty in Japan (Japan Times 2017). In my thesis I examine the Aequitas movement as an example of social movement unionism (SMU) (Fairbrother 2008; Moody 1997, Watanabe 2018) and evaluate the possibilities of SMU for union revitalization. By analyzing publications by unions and Aequitas itself and taking the group’s social media output into account, I’ll analyze the activists’ motivation and hopes for taking part in the movement.