Generational Conflict and Social Disparities behind Japan’s Low Fertility Society
March 2005 - November 2006
Until the end of the 1990s contemporary Japan’s social scientific research held the view that Japan is a classless society with narrow differences between rich and poor. The standardisation of a middle class life-style in all strata of society was seen as the main factor for the occurrence of a “general middle class consciousness” (sōchūryū ishiki) in post-war Japan. Recently, growing social disparities have begun to show and triggered a discourse on Japan as kakusa shakai (society of widening gaps). The project deals with the question whether demographic change itself had an influence on the break-up of the middle class or if the new forms of inequality and downward mobility did cause changes in behaviour related to marriage and giving birth. What is most striking is the loss of social security and poor occupational qualifications of young people in Japan. The research project is mainly concerned with the changing social conditions of Japan’s younger generation and intends to examine the correlation between low fertility, the changes in family and generational structure and the restructuring of the labour market.