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An Overview of Social Stratification and Inequality Study in Japan: Towards a ‘Mature’ Society Perspective

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Sociologists in Japan began their own collection of social stratification data for the first time in 1955. This essay introduces the history of social stratification and inequality studies in Japan. With the initiative of the International Sociological Association (ISA), the Japan Sociological Society (JSS) took part in national data collection for cross-national studies in 1955. The continued project is today called the National Survey of Social Stratification and Social Mobility, or the SSM survey in Japan. How have the changing global and local economic conditions shaped the social stratification and inequality in Japan since the mid-1950s? As a result of the high economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s, Japan has achieved ‘basic equality.’ Despite its comparatively declined economic growth rate after that, Japan’s household income inequality, along with a large gender disparity in individual income, has remained relatively unchanged. With such stability, however, Japan today faces a number of social challenges. I propose to call this social stage and society itself, a maturing society. Japan today is struggling to design its new and suitable life style in the process of social maturation.

Affiliations: 1: The Open University of Japan and Tohoku University


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