A Growing Service Economy with More Precarious Work? Convergence and Divergence in International Comparison

Nov 6, 2017 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Tanaka Yoko (Professor of Economic History, International and Advanced Japanese Studies, the University of Tsukuba; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Andrew Gordon (Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Harvard University)
Co-sponsored with the Reischauer Institute
Since industrialization began to change how people worked in a growing number of countries, industrial and workforce structures have been continuously transformed. Employment increased, while the number of peasants, self-employed, and family helpers decreased. Then the volume of employment shifted from manual or skilled male-dominated work in heavy industries toward service industries with a female-majority workforce. This is clearly seen in Japan, Germany, and the US, but also in many other countries including Korea and China. This shift toward the service economy contains, though, an increasing trend to employ people not in the manner of the male employees in the heavy industries, who often had secure jobs with some salary and career prospects, a social and/or corporate safety net, and relatively long-term skill development: in short, good jobs. On the contrary, employees in the service sector, many of whom are women, tend to be employed part-time, doing contract or agency work, or even working as individual independent contractors, all types of work which can be more precarious and less stable than that of secure, long-term employment. This talk examines a convergence toward the service economy, and changes to the employment structure of these female-oriented industries. It investigates furthermore how labor conditions in the service economy can still be differently embedded in each society with rather divergent prospects, particularly focusing on the retail industry in Germany and Japan.  

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