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As we enter the third decade of the “lost decade,” there is much to despair about the state of Japan. There has been a sharp increase in the number of working poor, mostly due to the spread of nonregular employment, which now involves 34 percent of the workforce, nearly double the level of the asset-bubble peak in 1989.

Tachibanaki explains that this massive shift in Japan’s employment system has been driven mostly by employers’ focus on cost-cutting. He examines the consequences of this trend for women, who are disproportionately represented in this new “precarious proletariat” — one disadvantaged by low job security, wages, benefits and training.

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