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Crumbling pillar? Declining union density in Japan


  • Freeman, Richard B.
  • Rebick, Marcus E.


This paper seeks to understand the recent decline of union density in Japan from 35% in 1975 to 28% in 1987. The decline in density is analyzed in terms of the changing proportion of workers in high and low unionization groups and the changes in density within those groups. Then using a stockflow relationship we look at how the organizing rate of new unions affects the overall density. A regression model assesses our interpretation of changes in Japanese density. Our principal findings are: (1) Structural shifts in the composition of employment and of the demographics of the work force account for only a modest proportion of the drop in Japanese density. As in the United States, most changes in density occur within industries and among defined demographic groups of workers. (2) Much of the decline in density is associated with the inability of Japanese unions to organize new establishments. We attribute this in part to lowered worker interest and stiffened management opposition to unionism following the oil shock, buttressed by unfavorable changes in the political and legal environment for collective bargaining and for union organization. and by other management actions, such as creating additional pseudomanagerial posts for older male workers.
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  • Freeman, Richard B. & Rebick, Marcus E., 1989. "Crumbling pillar? Declining union density in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 578-605, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jjieco:v:3:y:1989:i:4:p:578-605

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Freeman, Richard B. & Weitzman, Martin L., 1987. "Bonuses and employment in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 168-194, June.
    2. Hall, Robert E, 1982. "The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 716-724, September.
    3. Katharine G. Abraham & James L. Medoff, 1984. "Length of Service and Layoffs in Union and Nonunion Work Groups," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(1), pages 87-97, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rebitzer, James B., 1994. "Structural, Microeconomic and Institutional Explanations for Union Decline in the United States," Economic Review, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 45(1), pages 41-52, January.
    2. Kyota Eguchi, 2000. "Unions, Job Security, and Incentives of Workers," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-91, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    3. Lawrence F. Katz & Ana L. Revenga, 1989. "Changes in the Structure of Wages: The U.S. versus Japan," NBER Working Papers 3021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Noda, Tomohiko & Hirano, Daisuke, 2013. "Enterprise unions and downsizing in Japan before and after 1997," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 91-118.
    5. Blanchflower, David G., 2006. "A Cross-Country Study of Union Membership," IZA Discussion Papers 2016, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Yamane, Linus, 1998. "The insider-outsider model and Japanese labor unions," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 157-171, April.

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