Basis and Direction of Labor Law Reform: Japan and the debate in Europe and the United States

Author Name MIZUMACHI Yuichiro  (the University of Tokyo)
Creation Date/NO. May 2008 08-J-018
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Labor laws are in the process of being reformed in many parts of the world. Traditional labor laws were originally shaped and developed in societies undergoing industrialization oriented toward large-scale production and large-scale consumption, and in consequence they have become unable to cope with the increasing complexity and globalization of society in recent years.

The new labor law theories that are attracting attention as the basis of this change and reform are the procedural regulations theory being advocated in Europe and the structural approach in the U.S. The theoretical bases of these two differ, the former being based on politico-philosophical thinking and the latter on economic thinking. Nevertheless, what the two have in common is the advocacy of new theories and approaches to address the realities of societies that are growing increasingly diverse and complex, and the consequent giving of importance to dynamic processes.

By considering the current state of Japan's system of labor law in the light of these two legal theories, we can see the issues affecting labor law reform and its direction. One important issue is that of building a foundation for decentralized communication in which the opinions of diverse employees can be reflected, and another is that of shifting the regulatory substance of labor laws away from an ex-ante regulatory system in which the state prescribes detailed rules, and toward an ex-post regulatory system that gives importance to collective communication by the parties concerned.