nl en

From Welfare through Work to Work without Welfare? Japan’s Changing Welfare Regime in Global and Regional Comparison


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (60 EC, 120 EC or research) or the MA International Relations. Students of other programmes should contact the education coordinator prior to registration.


This course focuses on the ongoing transformation of the welfare-work nexus as a core pillar of the Japanese political economy. Work – and especially (male) “lifelong” employment – emerged as the main path towards social security in the postwar high-growth period. The Japanese state has secured the link between welfare and work through various direct and indirect means. Since the 1990, however, the welfare-work nexus has come under increasing pressure through a broad variety of interrelated developments, including labor deregulation as a response to growing competition and economic stagnation, demographic change, shifting gender roles, or changing corporate practices. Meanwhile, some (informal) elements of the postwar welfare-work nexus have remained surprisingly persistent. This gradual and inconsistent transformation has produced rising levels of social and socio-spatial inequalities, which political reforms to revive the Japanese economy and remodel the welfare state have not been able to address sufficiently.

In this course, students critically engage with the transformation of the Japanese welfare-work nexus. The first section of the course provides an overview on core concepts in the comparative welfare state literature and introduces the major characteristics of the Japanese welfare-work nexus in international and East Asian comparison. Based on a theoretical understanding of welfare regimes as complex arrangements of formal and informal institutions, the section also introduces key challenges for theorizing institutional change and stability.

The second section provides a detailed perspective on various dimensions of the ongoing transformation of the welfare-work nexus in Japan, including the changing face of “lifelong” employment, the rise of irregular labor, “gig work”, and precarity, or change and continuity regarding gender roles in employment and care work. Students are encouraged to contribute actively to the course by introducing topics according to their personal interests, suggest readings, or offer comparative perspectives from other (Asian) countries. Students will also be challenged to discuss the impact of recent developments, including the COVID-19 pandemic or labor migration.

Course objectives

  • Acquire a sound knowledge of key debates and issues in the ongoing transformation of Japanese welfare capitalism

  • Critical engagement with theoretical concepts regarding the link between welfare and work and the characteristics of Japan’s welfare regime in global and regional comparison

  • Theorizing institutional change in advanced political economies

  • Ability to identify and formulate original research questions based on a thorough understanding of key debates in the literature, and conduct effective research activities regarding the topics of the course

  • Written and oral communicative skills, including leading and moderating discussions, oral presentations, group work, and essays


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

The deadline(s) in MyTimetable is/are set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction


Each session consists of several components, including an interactive lecture by the instructor to introduce key issues of the respective topic and contextualize the assigned readings, as well as various discussion formats (round tables, presentations, games/simulations). In the second section of the course, students (individually or in small teams) are invited to actively participate in planning each session by presenting on topics they select together with the lecturer, and leading/moderating discussions or group assignments. Therefore, students should come to seminars ready to contribute, i.e., they should finish the required reading and prepare for discussion questions (sent in advance or formulated during class). Active participation will be assessed.

Assessment method

Academic integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and weighing

.| Presentation| 20%| |Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, preparation)| 20%| | Research essay (4,000 words)|60%|

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of the final paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (60%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.

A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.

Reading list

A list of foundational readings which can be found in a reserved shelf/electronic shelf in the university library will be posted on Brightspace before the start of the course.

The weekly readings will also be announced on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.