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Adulthood as Action

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Changing Meanings of Adulthood for Male Part-Time Workers in Contemporary Japan

image of Asian Journal of Social Science

Before the 1990s, Japanese routes to adulthood appeared to be well structured and strongly linked to the school-to-work transition and other status transitions, such as marriage, parenthood and home ownership. However, with significant changes in employment practices, a weakening of school-to-work transitions, and the rapid increase of the irregular labour market to 38.2 % in 2012, there exists a greater acknowledgement of a diversity of routes into the world of employment and adulthood. Freeters, part-time workers aged between 15–34 who are neither students, nor housewives, have been at the epicentre of these discussions. By drawing on participant observation and interviews conducted since 2007, this paper explores male freeters’ understandings of adulthood through their views on employment, responsibility, meaning and action. It argues that male freeters’ focus on adulthood as constituted through action rather than as the successful result of status transitions is reconfiguring ideas of adulthood in contemporary Japan.

Affiliations: 1: Hokkaido University


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