SASE New York – 2019 EHESS/Fondation France-Japon – Best Paper Award

The EHESS/Fondation France-Japan Best Paper Award is a prize the best paper on Asia submitted to the conference. The prizewinner will receive 1,000€ thanks to the great generosity of the Banque de France.

Shin Arita, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, Japan Legitimation of Income Inequality in Japan: A Comparison with South Korea and the United States Session Q07: Inequality, Social Movements and Social Justice (co-authors: Kikuko Nagayoshi, Tohoku University; Hirofumi Taki, Hosei University; Hiroshi Kanbayashi, Tohoku Gakuin University; Hirohisa Takenoshita, Keio University; Takashi Yoshida, Shizuoka University)

Shin Arita receiving his Award

Abstract: Japan has witnessed the exacerbation of socioeconomic inequality over the last few decades, despite a long-held belief that Japan was a relatively equal society. Particularly, the income inequality according to gender and type of employment (e.g. standard or non-standard employment) is quite large compared to other counties.

Why are these inequalities so large in Japan? We attempt to answer this question through the lens of the legitimation of inequality, assuming the possibility that these inequalities remain unresolved because they are legitimized due to institutional and other conditions of Japanese society and because disadvantaged earners take inequality for granted. For the purpose, we will examine the following research questions through analyzing the data of the vignette survey which asks how much income should be paid to fictitious workers described by various personal and job-related attributes, such as gender and type of employment, conducted in Japan, South Korea, and the United States by our project team.

(1) How do the levels of just income for fictitious workers differ according to their personal and job-related attributes? (2) Does the degree of difference in just income differ depending on respondents’ personal and job-related attributes? In other words, do disadvantaged earners oppose income inequality based on the personal and job-related attributes, or do they accept it?

The results of multilevel model analysis on just income show that Japanese respondents assume that income of workers should be different by several to a dozen percent according to worker’s gender and type of employment, as well as their family situation, occupation, age, and education even though other conditions are equal. Thus, these income differences are accepted as “fair inequality” by respondents. While this is also the case with South Korea, respondents think that workers’ income should be equal regardless of gender and type of employment in the United States.

Does the degree of acceptance of income inequality differ based on the attributes of respondents? We can expect that disadvantaged earners, such as females and non-standard workers, accept less income inequality replying that the difference in just income based on the personal or job-related attribute should be smaller than advantaged earners. However, this is not the case, but rather the opposite was found with female and non-standard workers in Japan based on the analysis of interaction terms between vignette’s and respondent’s attributes, although we do not find similar results in South Korea.

We conclude that income inequality based on gender and type of employment is so strongly legitimized in Japan that disadvantaged earners accept more income equality than advantaged earners. We will also examine whether the acceptance of income inequality can be explained by respondents’ assumptions toward personal and job-related attributes and preferences on distributive justice principles in this paper.

Many thanks to Sebastien Lechevalier (EHESS) [chair], Loraine Kennedy (EHESS), Shinsuke Nagaoka (Kyoto University), Thierry Pairault (CNRS/EHESS), Cornelia Storz (Goethe University in Frankfurt), and Hugh Whittaker (University of Oxford) for their work on the EHESS/Fondation France-Japon Best Paper Prize Selection Committee