In recent decades Japan has changed from a strongly growing, economically successful nation regarded as prime example of social equality and inclusion, to a nation with a stagnating economy, a shrinking population and a very high proportion of elderly people. Within this, new forms of inequality are emerging and deepening, and a new model of Japan as 'gap society' (kakusa shakai) has become common-sense. These new forms of inequality are complex, are caused in different ways by a variety of factors, and require deep-seated reforms in order to remedy them. This book provides a comprehensive overview of inequality in contemporary Japan. It examines inequality in labour and employment, in welfare and family, in education and social mobility, in the urban-rural divide, and concerning immigration, ethnic minorities and gender. The book also considers the widespread anxiety effect of the fear of inequality; and discusses how far these developments in Japan represent a new form of social problem for the wider world.

part I|26 pages


chapter 1|24 pages

After the banquet

New inequalities and their perception in Japan since the 1990s

part II|28 pages

Creation of inequality and its perception in Japan

chapter 2|8 pages

Institutions and actors in the creation of social inequality

A rational choice approach to social inequality

chapter 3|18 pages

The gap as threat

Status anxiety in the ‘middle'

part IV|42 pages

Welfare state and family

chapter 7|14 pages

Economic inequality among families with small children in Japan

Who provides welfare to children? 1

chapter 8|13 pages

Social policy responses to the ‘gap society'

The structural limitations of the Japanese welfare state and related official discourses since the 1990s

chapter 9|13 pages

The old and new welfare politics in Japan

Persisting obstacles to reform

part V|38 pages

Education and social mobility

chapter 10|17 pages

Understanding structural changes in inequality in Japanese education

From selection to choice

chapter 12|9 pages

Trying to reduce inequalities in school

The academic discourse and the concept of ‘effective schools'

part VI|46 pages

Urban-rural divide

chapter 13|14 pages

The urban-rural divide in Japan

A matter of social inequality?

chapter 15|18 pages

Understanding the dynamics of regional growth and shrinkage in 21st Century Japan

Towards the achievement of an Asia-Pacific ‘depopulation dividend'

part VII|54 pages

New immigration and ethnic minorities

chapter 16|17 pages

Migration and integration patterns of new immigrants in Japan

Diverse structures of inequality

chapter 18|19 pages

Understanding the gaps between immigrant economic outcomes

Strategic action and meaning making among newcomer immigrants in Japan 1

part VIII|16 pages


chapter 19|14 pages

Reassembling the pieces

The big picture of inequality in Japan