Hiroshi Ishida - Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, The University of Tokyo
The Council is pleased to present the Twelfth Annual John W. Hall Lecture in Japanese Studies. The demographic and socio-economic environment for young people in Japan has changed significantly in the past two decades. The dominant images in public talk and academic discourse highlight a dramatic shift from a stable, prosperous, and homogeneous middle-class society to a society suffering from a loss of job security, anxiety over future employment, increased gaps between “winners” and “losers,” and the erosion of hope and dreams among the disadvantaged. It is, however, an open question whether or not these images reflect the changing realities of contemporary Japan. This lecture will provide an overview of important changes but also significant continuities in three domains that affect the life chances of Japanese youth: education, work, and marriage. It highlights inequality to demonstrate that Japanese youth do not appear to have equal chances of access to higher education, entry into prestigious jobs, and solid marriage prospects. This unequal access to resources and rewards at earlier life stages affects their later life chances, and the lecture examines how the cumulative effects of unequal access shape opportunities for Japanese over the longer life course.