Richard Katz, editor-in-chief at The Oriental Economist, is the author of "Voodoo Abenomics: Japan's Failed Comeback Plan," an article published in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Katz went into more detail about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics" policy in a recent email interview with The Japan Times.
In your article you open by focusing on key changes in the labor market. What happened and what are the implications?
Irregular workers have risen from about 15 percent of the labor force in the 1980s to 38 percent today. These are part-timers and temporaries who often get paid a third less per hour, work fewer hours per month and don't get bonuses and other benefits. Because even a firm in trouble finds it legally very hard to lay off permanent workers, they prefer to hire irregulars. The result is a continued drop in consumer spending power. Moreover, it worsens Japan's demographic crunch. Whereas 70 percent of Japanese men in their 30s with regular jobs are married, among irregular workers in their 30s, that percentage plunges to just 25 percent. Abe has done nothing to address this problem. In fact, so far, all of the job growth under Abe has been in irregular employment.