I make use of advances in quantitative text-as-data tools to analyze the evolution of labor politics in Japan from the 1990s to today. Using a variety of data sources---including hundreds of deliberative council records, parliamentary transcripts, and newspaper articles---I show that labor policy became both more contentious and politically salient as the locus of policymaking migrated from the labor ministry to the prime minister's office. In addition, I highlight how quantitative analysis tools might be employed by area studies scholars in the social sciences.
Japanese labor policy was traditionally set in tripartite deliberative councils sponsored by the labor ministry. Beginning in the mid-1990s, policy initiative began to shift to parliament and the prime minister's office. In the former system, labor unions and employers bargained directly over policy. In the latter, political parties set the policy agenda. How did labor unions, employers, and political parties respond to these changes?
I collected records from deliberative council meetings, parliamentary debates, and periodicals put out by employers and labor unions stretching back to the 1990s. These copra allowed me to analyze: 1) changes in the contentiousness of deliberative council meetings over time, 2) the frequency with which policy actors discussed labor market "insiders" versus "outsiders", and 3) conditions under which labor market deregulation was more or less likely.
I found that only after labor unions lost a seat at the policy table were they willing to advocate on behalf of (non-unionized) labor market outsiders (dispatch, part-time, and contract workers).