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Inequality in the Workplace

Labor Market Reform in Japan and Korea

by Jiyeoun Song

Publication Year: 2014

The past several decades have seen widespread reform of labor markets across advanced industrial countries, but most of the existing research on job security, wage bargaining, and social protection is based on the experience of the United States and Western Europe. In Inequality in the Workplace, Jiyeoun Song focuses on South Korea and Japan, which have advanced labor market reform and confronted the rapid rise of a split in labor markets between protected regular workers and underprotected and underpaid nonregular workers. The two countries have implemented very different strategies in response to the pressure to increase labor market flexibility during economic downturns. Japanese policy makers, Song finds, have relaxed the rules and regulations governing employment and working conditions for part-time, temporary, and fixed-term contract employees while retaining extensive protections for full-time permanent workers. In Korea, by contrast, politicians have weakened employment protections for all categories of workers.

In her comprehensive survey of the politics of labor market reform in East Asia, Song argues that institutional features of the labor market shape the national trajectory of reform. More specifically, she shows how the institutional characteristics of the employment protection system and industrial relations, including the size and strength of labor unions, determine the choice between liberalization for the nonregular workforce and liberalization for all as well as the degree of labor market inequality in the process of reform.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Terms

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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-18

Haken no Hinkaku (Haken’s Dignity), a popular Japanese TV drama that aired in 2007, portrayed the work life of female dispatched workers (or haken shain). Dispatched workers are a new sort of worker in Japan, hired on short-term employment contracts and through private employment agencies. As the TV drama illustrated, an increasing proportion of the female clerical workforce in the Japanese labor market has been staffed by non-regular workers, such as dispatched...

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1. Japanese and Korean Labor Markets and Social Protections in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 19-45

During the 1990s and 2000s, Japan and Korea promoted labor market reforms that differed substantially from those of other advanced industrialized countries, and despite being a somewhat similar pair of market economies in many important ways, they approached labor market reform with two different strategies and with two dissimilar sets of consequences. This chapter elaborates three key...

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2. The Politics of Labor Market Reform in Hard Times

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pp. 46-66

That countries adopt diverging paths of labor market reform raises an important question for policy makers as well as scholars, considering the frequency of global and national economic crises around the world and the necessity of reform for economic adjustment. This chapter focuses on the institutional arrangements of the labor market to explain the political process and outcome...

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3. The Institutional Origins of the Labor Market and Social Protections in Japan and Korea

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pp. 67-83

Japanese and Korean labor markets and social protections were established during the period of rapid industrialization.1 Although this book does not focus exclusively on the path-dependent institutional trajectory of labor market reform, it is still important to examine the conditions under which certain labor market and social protections were introduced because these institutional arrangements...

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4. Japan: Liberalization for Outsiders, Protection for Insiders

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pp. 84-118

The 1990s were a critical turning point for Japan, a country whose economic system was centered on the nonmarket-based strategic coordination of capitalism.1 After the bursting of the asset bubble in the early 1990s, the Japanese economy plunged into a protracted recession and its state-led developmental strategy combined with nonmarket-based strategic coordination, long seen as...

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5. Korea: Liberalization for All, Except for Chaebo˘l Workers

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pp. 119-161

In the wake of the 1987 democratic transition and the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Korea promoted a series of labor market reforms in order to transform its rigid labor market institutions into more flexible ones.1 Unlike Japan and other CMEs that focused on liberalization of the labor market for outsiders, Korea prioritized comprehensive reform for all workers. Ironically, this comprehensive...

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pp. 162-178

During the past few decades, labor market reform has been one of the most controversial political agendas in advanced industrialized countries afflicted with economic downturns, high unemployment rates, intense market competition, and de-industrialization. Policy makers have considered labor market reform—represented by deregulation and liberalization of rules and regulations...


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pp. 179-200


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pp. 201-222


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pp. 223-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780801471018
E-ISBN-10: 080147101X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801452154
Print-ISBN-10: 0801452155

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1