Crumbling Pillar? Declining Union Density in Japan

Richard B. Freeman, Marcus E. Rebick

NBER Working Paper No. 2963
Issued in May 1989
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies Program

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2963

Published: 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. citation courtesy of

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