Stability and increasing fluidity in the contemporary Japanese social stratification system

Satō, Yoshimichi GND

We argue that stability and increasing fluidity coexist in the contemporary Japanese social stratification system. It is often argued that the weakening of Japanese employment practices has made the labor market more flexible. While there is evidence to support this argument, it misses an important factor in the labor market, namely social stratification. We suggest that some parts of the labor market have become more fluid, while other parts have been stable. To test this prediction, we examine empirical findings made in the 2005 Social Stratification and Social Mobility Survey Project, covering such topics as education and inequality, increasing fluidity and disparity among young workers, job changes, and income inequality. Our findings on education and inequality show that stratification in the educational system affects the entry of graduates into regular or non-regular employment. Our analysis of young workers shows that while the longterm employment practice persists in large firms and the public sector and thus shows stability, mobility between regular and non-regular employment is difficult and that young female graduates from high schools and junior colleges recently find it difficult to enter the regular employment sector. Our analysis of the effect of education on job changes shows that the income of less educated workers who change jobs has decreased recently. We also find increasing income inequality between professionals and other occupations and examine the intergenerational transmission of income. We conclude that these findings generally support our prediction that stability and increasing fluidity coexist in the contemporary Japanese labor market. We consider the implications of this for the study of social stratification in Japan.