In February 2019 Sustainable Care PI Sue Yeandle and Jason Heyes (who leads our work on Combining Work & Care) visited Tokyo to develop our international work with Japanese partners.
Our visit, organised by partner the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, included:

12th February 2019

We were welcomed to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare by Mr Susumu Oda, Director, Work & Life Harmonization Division and Mr Kazuhiro Ogihawa, Health & Welfare Bureau for the Elderly. Mr Oda explained the context and details of Japan’s 2017 Child Care and Family Care Leave Law; measures being taken to reduce working hours; and Prime Minster Abe’s mission to reduce the number of workers who feel compelled to leave work to care from its current level, c100,000 workers p.a., ‘to zero’. Mr Ogihawa presented recent data on implementation of Japan’s Long-term Care Insurance Scheme, showing how the balance between different types of LTC service had changed between 2001 and 2017, and sharing the ‘Realization of a society where everybody can be more active in better health for a longer period of time’ vision, for 2040.

Later, we visited RENGO (Japan’s trade union association) to meet Ms Kumie Inoue (Executive Director, Gender & Employment Equality Department), Mr Natsuko Matsuno (Section Chief, Gender Equality Division) and Ms Koji Terunuma, Assistant Director, Division of Employment Equality) who shared RENGO’s perspective on support measures to balance work and care. This included evidence from a recent survey of 15,000 trade union members aged 40+, an account of RENGO’s involvement in the 2017 reform of care leave, and its current campaigning strategy regarding care leave.

13th February 2019

The following day we visited Keidanren (Japan’s Employers’ Association), meeting Mr Go Harada (Labor Policy Bureau) and Mr Yuko Nunoyama (Labour Legislation Bureau) who shared Keidanren’s ‘Policy and Action’ vision. In this, the ‘Society 5.0’ concept is critical for Japan’s ‘bright future’; it involves reforms of the business sector, human resources, the public sector and through use of data and technology to tackle population ageing. Keidanren recognises that, in the future, ‘everyone will become a carer’. It considers it vital that employers encourage workers to ‘speak out’ about caring roles, use support available via the LTC insurance system, and tackle ‘quitting work to care’ by seeing care as a ‘common problem’ for workers, line managers and senior executives. Under the slogan TOMO KEA (Caring Together), Keidanren uses a policy of ‘thinking’ and ‘tackling’ the issue together using concrete measures: top-level messaging; identification of needs; provision of information and advice; and provision of carer-friendly workplace support.

Later we met colleagues at the Japan Institute of Labor Policy and Training who, led by Mr Shingou Ikeda, are investigating work-care reconciliation in Japan. We learned about their current research and large new survey (in the field during our visit) on combining work and long-term care, and shared information about our related research within the Sustainable Care programme.

14th February 2019

A symposium entitled ‘What is Sustainable Care?’ was arranged at the Seikyo-ren Kaikan Centre, Tokyo where perspectives from the UK and Japan on sustainable care arrangements, and the challenges of developing good policies to support working carers, were shared in a valuable discussion and exchange of information and ideas. Speakers in the symposium included: Mr Shingou Ikeda and Dr Kaoru Okaze (JILPT); Dr Wako Asato (Kyoto University); Ms. Makino (Carers Japan); Dr Mai Yamaguchi (Japan Lutheran College); Dr Masaya Shimmei (Institute for Future Engineering); as well as Prof Sue Yeandle and Prof Jason Heyes (University of Sheffield).

15th February 2019

On the final day a planning meeting was held with the JILPT work-care reconciliation studies team to discuss ongoing collaboration. Discussion centred on: our forthcoming symposium at the Transforming Care conference (Copenhagen, June 2019); sharing research instruments and data; and plans for the Japanese team to contribute to a joint Sustainable Care publication on work and care.

We thank our hosts for a most interesting, informative visit, especially Mr Shingou Ikeda, who planned our trip and accompanied us, and Dr Masaya Shimmei who kindly translated throughout. 

More pictures from ‘What is Sustainable Care?’, the Symposium at the Seikyo-ren Kaikan Centre, Tokyo

Photos: Mr Higashi, Carers Japan

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