Renewal of Organizing Strategies for Child Care Workers ?: Union Responses to Neoliberal Child Care Reform and Downgraded Care Work in Japan

Friday, July 18, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Kumiko HAGIWARA , Economics, shimonoseki city university, Shimonoseki, Japan
Child care work, mostly performed by women, is almost always poorly paid. Unionizing child care workers is an important strategy for securing fair compensation and better working conditions for child care workers. This entails social movement that re-evaluates care work and women’s work.

In Japan, certified child care teachers have been relatively well organized under the All Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union (Jichiro). This is because local governments acted as major care providers at least until the 1970s, and they employed certified child care teachers as local government employees for publicly run child care centers. With their collective bargaining power as an occupational group and a women’s group, organized teachers have also played a critical role in improving working conditions for child care teachers as a whole.

However, their influence has been on the decline both in the policy-making process and in the union with the arrival of neoliberal reform policies such as the privatization of accredited child care centers, and the deregulation of the work force such as lifting of the limit on the number of part-time teachers per cite. Certified child care teachers employed by local governments, once regarded as secure and decent jobs for women, are disappearing, and child care providers, including certified teachers, are now becoming members of the working poor.

How will unions renew their strategy to organize child care workers? How will teachers respond to lost occupational homogeneity? Furthermore, will the union's survival be compatible with sustainable care provision? The paper describes some of the history of the organization of the child care teachers and their activism, and focuses on and compares the current struggles and functions of two unions: Jichiro, and the Union of Workers of Welfare and Child Care, the craft union for teachers and non-certified teachers affiliated on an individual basis.