The Advent of Vulnerability: Socioeconomic Insecurities and Feelings of Social Isolation in Contemporary Japan

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: Booth 53
Oral Presentation
Carola HOMMERICH , Institute for Japanese Studies , Japan
Over the past two decades, topics related to social inequality have come to dominate public discourse in Japan. Over the same time span, the number of Japanese who experience socioeconomic anxiety in their everyday life has increased. Analysis of data of a nationwide survey carried out by the author for the German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ) in 2009 shows, that an increase of social risks is not only perceived as something affecting others, but that socioeconomic anxieties and fears of social isolation spread throughout all strata of Japanese society. The data indicate that such negative emotions have a strong negative impact on subjective well-being in the Japanese context.

An analysis of who is most likely to be affected reveals objective differences in social status to be only weakly associated with a variation in insecurities. Instead, resources of different forms of trust and individual coping competences – in particular a sense of coherence – are decisive for an experience of status anxiety or social isolation.

However, trust levels, especially in governmental welfare, prove to be low in Japan, and, thus, cannot fully develop their protective function. Japan has not yet managed the transition from a society based on assurance to a society based on trust. Most of all the young generation is vulnerable and ill-equipped to cope with the new social risks it faces in present-day Japan.