Negotiating Welfare Reforms: Actors and Institutions in Japan

Date Published:

Jan 1, 2002


In Sven Steinmo and Bo Rothstein eds. Institutionalism and Welfare Reforms (Palgrave 2002)

During the 1990s, Japan simultaneously expanded and cut benefits in different programs. In doing so, the Japanese case casts doubts upon facile assumption that the welfare state goes through separate phases of expansion and retrenchment. What seems to be happening in Japan is an overall reshuffling of costs and benefits within the welfare state.

Welfare reforms are difficult, because, as Esping–Andersen (1996) and Pierson (1994) have pointed out, welfare states produce groups with stakes in the status quo. Some institutions, however, make it easier to reform the welfare state (cf. Bonoli 2000: Bonoli and Palier 2000; Pierson ed. 2001). Visser and Hemerijick (1997), for instance, show how the Dutch transformed their welfare state by drawing upon a corporatist social partnership. I look at the noncorporatist country, Japan, to examine why some reforms were possible and some not.