Academic development

1. Studies of social welfare policy

1) Social welfare policy in Japan
 The broader sense of the term ‘social welfare policy’ in Japan is similar to that of ‘social policy’ in the UK. This terminology has traditionally been used to describe personal social services in the Japanese context. This term can be classified into two domains: personal social services and social assistance run by the state. They have been the most important research areas for the study of social welfare policy.

2) Influence of British social policy studies
 Japanese studies of social welfare policy have greatly benefited from British social policy studies since the 1970s. For instance, many works of R. M. Titmuss and T. H. Marshall were translated into Japanese. For JSSSW members, Titmuss’s ideas related to social policy, including the concepts of ‘social divisions of welfare’, ‘positive discrimination’, ‘universalism and selectivism’, ‘the social market against the economic market’ and ‘the gift relationship’ have been regarded as analytical tools and/or normative principles of welfare. In the same way, Marshall’s classical theory of the historical development of social citizenship has been read by generation after generation.

3) Marxist tradition
 In contrast, Japanese social welfare policy studies was traditionally dominated by a Marxist or materialist approach before accepting the theoretical ideas of the Fabian perspective in the 1970s described above. A famous Marxist thinker, Shoichi Kohashi, who was one of founders of JSSSW, strongly termed social welfare policy as the inevitable product of the economic and social relations of capitalism after the 1950s. His theory, however, gradually has come to be criticized as one of economic determinism.

4) Social welfare management theory
 The emergence of a pragmatic or managerial approach to the study of social welfare policy has increasingly become prominent in trying to overcome the Marxist deterministic or metaphysical perspective since the 1970s. This approach was termed ‘social welfare management theory’ (Shakai Fukusi Keiei Ron) and it insisted that studying social welfare policy no longer needed structural explanations and radical change. Rather, it expected gradual reforms by effective and incremental social planning. A promoter of this theory, Fumio Miura, who was one of the introducers of Titmussian inspiration, successfully removed normative and ideological debates from the study of social welfare policy. His intention in this removal was to deliberately eschew the endless Byzantine debates in social welfare policy studies and provide a practical theory instead that made the discipline more fruitful and rationally accountable for policy makers and practitioners.

5) Japanese model of welfare society
 In the 1980s, the Liberal Democratic Party (Jiyu Minshu To) government tried to keep welfare schemes small, emphasizing and strongly recommending to meet needs on the family level as part of the informal sector. This conservative policy agenda was called ‘the Japanese model of welfare society’ (‘Nihon Gata Fukushi Shakai Ron’), but it eventually reached its limits and failed, as traditional family values and norms of supporting or caring for dependents had increasingly changed due to considerable diversification in family formation. Some critics argued that the male-bread-winner model of the family had lost its former position.

6) Structural welfare scheme reform
 In the 1990s and after, the demographic change and fiscal crisis of the state have witnessed the growth of reforms in personal social service policies with the introduction of user-oriented service provision. The establishment of the Long-Term Care Insurance Act in 1997 was the most prominent example. This enabled users and their families to choose care services they needed or demanded through a care management system in exchange for contribution. Care management approaches spread overwhelmingly throughout service provision in the fields of elderly, disability and child welfare. These changes in policy were called ‘the structural welfare scheme reform’ (Shakai Fukushi Kiso Kozo Kaikaku), achieved through the efforts and commitment of many researchers.

7) Recent issues
 In the 21st century, we have seen the growth of new political issues as proposed tasks for social welfare policy studies: the growing wealth gap between the rich and the poor, inequality of income and health, rapid and severe demographic transition and social exclusion. The most visible theme in the political area was the problem of social inclusion, which made it necessary to bring excluded people into the labor market. Many activation or workfare policies for those who are excluded (jobless persons, working poor and temporary workers) were introduced after the Democratic Party (Minshu To) took power (2009-2012). There was a great upheaval of new focus in social welfare policy in the 2000s, namely how to introduce and deal with job support for non-disabled recipients of social assistance. Following this, some researchers debated the possibility of introducing a Basic Income Scheme and a way to reconstruct minimum income policy.
 Since the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power again in 2012, these issues and the turmoil in Japanese politics and economy has been getting worse. In the 2010s, one of the most important focus of issues in social welfare policy has been relative poverty. The actual number of persons receiving public assistance and the public assistance rate (per mill) has both gradually increased. In FY 1995, the public assistance rate was 7.0 but in FY 2014 it reached 17.0 (1). Spreading poverty has made young people vulnerable. Because of insufficiencies in youth policy in Japan, many young people who did not have not support from family were compelled to become homeless, including so called ‘net-café refugees’. Child and female poverty were (re)discovered and continue to be serious social problems to this day. Nowadays, we are confronted with both old and new poverty that need numerous innovations in social welfare schemes. These innovations need more creative theories and research, so JSSSW and its members must strive for academic progress.

 Source
(1) http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/wp/wp-hw10/dl/08e.pdf

2. Studies on social work theory and practice

1) Early research on social work theory
 The academic discipline of social work in Japan has historically been greatly influenced by Western nations, especially the United States of America. Classical social work theories developed in the U.S. were introduced and applied to Japanese social work research and practice. In particular, at the developmental phase of social work in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s, notable books on casework were translated extensively, including those of M.E. Richmond, G. Hamilton, C. Torre, and H. H. Perlman. While these early efforts guided Japanese social work studies and practice in a rational way, a certain level of criticism by Marxists and other social scientists also existed and pointed out a lack of consideration of the unique socio-economic and historical context of Japanese society.

2) Domestic theoretical developments
 Meanwhile, significant theoretical developments were also made by Japanese scholars. Shigeo Okamura was a notable figure who developed an original social work theory by specifying unique functions of social work within a broader social welfare framework. He insisted that social work is applied to solve difficulties by making use of social relations and institutions, and is characterized by 1) social, 2) universal, 3) self-directive, and 4) realistic principles. Later, he further developed a theory of community work that consists of 1) community care, 2) welfare community organization, 3) community development, and 4) preventive social work. Yuichi Nakamura, another pioneering social work academic, proposed the importance of socially-oriented professional caseworkers by interlocking the social-relational perspective with that of social problems. In his book, Casework in Public Assistance, published in 1956, basic principles and methods necessary for casework were clarified with the aim of attaining economic, as well as human independence for service recipients.

3) Contemporary social work theories and their application to fields of practice
 Introduction of systems theory and an ecological perspective into social work had a significant impact on social work in the West, as well as in Japan. These perspectives gave a broader understanding of social work within a global environmental context and triggered the development of generalist social work which integrated such practice methods as casework, group work, and community organization. More recently, an empowerment approach and the strengths perspective brought forward in the 1990s together with a post-modern paradigm, have led to the flowering of user-centered approaches. Gensuke Komatsu was one of those who vigorously reviewed and introduced these newer social work theories. Many others also investigated theoretical and practical issues regarding these emerging perspectives when applying them to specific populations and fields of practice in various settings of social work, such as practice with elderly people, people with mental disorders, children, and people living with disabilities.

4) Expanding community care and community-based social work
 Community care has been a major trend since the 1970s in many Western nations, similarly to Japan. Population aging has been proceeding rapidly and the need for community care has become an urgent national concern. In 1987, the Certified Social Worker and Certified Care Worker Act was enacted in order to respond to the growing needs of people who use social care. Accordingly, case/care management gained popular interest among social workers as well as other health professionals. In 1997, case/care management was formally instituted in the public scheme for elderly people under the Long-term Care Insurance Act. Currently, certified care managers play a crucial role in supporting the daily lives of elderly people living in the community.
 Community care has been a major trend since the 1970s in many Western nations, similarly to Japan. Population aging has been proceeding rapidly and the need for community care has become an urgent national concern. In 1987, the Certified Social Worker and Certified Care Worker Act was enacted in order to respond to the growing needs of people who use social care. Accordingly, case/care management gained popular interest among social workers as well as other health professionals. In 1997, case/care management was formally instituted in the public scheme for elderly people under the Long-term Care Insurance Act. Currently, certified care managers play a crucial role in supporting the daily lives of elderly people living in the community.
 Population aging, as well as other major social shifts such as urbanization, prolonged recession, and the weakening of family and local community ties have brought about great changes in the Japanese family and society. Social isolation as well as family abuse and neglect have become visible phenomena that require community-based social work with an emphasis on networking and advocacy. There is no doubt that not only social work professionals and agencies, but also other related individuals and organizations in both formal and informal sectors should join hands and work collaboratively in every community. Currently, there is a great demand for social work to further develop, coordinate and lead such an ‘inclusive community care system’.

5) Accumulation of social work research and the need for evidence-based practice
 Due to the innovation of computer technology and the advancement of statistical measures, empirical social work studies have been increasingly accumulating since the 1990s. Needs analysis of various populations including people in poverty, elderly people, children and young people, people living with disabilities, caregivers, and those living with special needs, have been conducted both at the national and local levels. Social work skills are also being investigated in various settings including residential and community facilities. Professional organizations, for instance the Japanese Association of Certified Social Workers, are eager to monitor and evaluate services provided by their members and develop life-long educational programs. While academic and professional efforts to establish high quality social work have been noteworthy, evidence-based practice should also be promoted to ensure quality of life for people, as well as professional accountability.