(Arthur M. Okun)
In recent years, Japan and Germany have been facing very similar challenges: aging populations, changing family and job structures, and globalization. How have these factors influenced social policies in both countries?
Since the end of the 1980s, there has been a heated debate in comparative social policy on how economic internationalization may cause the convergence of welfare systems. One school of thought argues that competition for capital and markets increases pressures on industrialized countries to adopt low wage strategies; this then leads to a reduction of social benefits and weakening labor standards. According to these observers, social policies in those countries will become increasingly similar. Another school of thought argues that nation states in general are not losing their power to pursue distinguished social policies; these critics claim that political, institutional and legal factors still play an important role at the national level.
The purpose of this conference is to undertake a close economic and legal analysis of recent social policy changes in Japan and Germany, which have so far received little or no comparative attention, and thereby contribute to the theoretical debate on convergent versus divergent developments in social policy. Japan and Germany seem to be especially suited for such a comparison because their economic systems and welfare regimes share many similarities; for this reason, converging or diverging tendencies can be traced more easily. In contrast to the Anglo-American free market economies, Japan and Germany have been described as coordinated market economies with close similarities in their financial and economic governance, production systems and management-labor relations. Following Esping-Andersen’s typology of ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’ and ‘social-democratic’ welfare regimes, there is a broad consensus that Germany is a ‘conservative’ regime with strong employment-related social rights and contribution-related benefits. Although there is less consensus on Japan’s position within these regime types, it is clear that there are numerous ‘conservative’ elements such as group specific, contribution-related social insurances and employment-related social rights.
This conference brings together economic and legal experts from Japan and Germany to discuss recent or planned changes in pensions, income policy, long-term care, the non-profit sector, and gender- and age-specific problems in social security. Two issues will be at the center of the comparative analysis:
- To what extent have changing attitudes about individual responsibility and social solidarity led to a redefinition of social policy objectives in Japan and Germany? Are there new trends in social entrepreneurship? How are we to interpret current public debate, which has focused on civil society and community-based remedies?
- What changes are taking place in the various policy fields on the instrumental level? Are we experiencing convergent developments? What similarities and differences exist and how can they be explained? What kind of instrumental adjustments should be in place in order to achieve the respective (changing) policy objectives?
The Univers Foundation
France Bed Medical Home Care Research Subsidy Foundation
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany