Topical and Sectoral Studies

Development of Japan's Social Security System -An Evaluation and Implications for Developing Countries (July 2004)

Institute for International Cooperation
Japan International Cooperation Agency


Cover: Development of Japan's Social Security System

Report (PDF/628KB)

Summary (English/Japanese) (PDF/156KB)

Report (Cover/English Part) (PDF/632KB)

Report (Japanese Part) (PDF/400KB)

This handbook is an edited and augmented version of the repo rt in "Towards the Establishment of Social Safety Nets (SSNs) in Developing Countries," compiled by a JICA study group in 2003 called "Basic Research on Social Safety Nets." Excerpts of several sections from the report specifically referring to "Japan's experience," written by Professor Yoshinori Hiroi of Chiba University, who is a committee member of the SSN study group, this handbook is focused on reviewing permanent social security systems such as the health insurance systems and pension systems in Japan.>

Japan's experience in establishing its social security systems while society was dramatically changing in the prewar and post-war period could provide useful lessons on both positive and negative aspects. This kind of experience contains many suggestions for developing countries considering their prospects for economic growth. This handbook can be utilized as a reference in technical transfer programs for developing countries in the field of social security development.

Until the end of WWII, more than half of the population was employed in businesses in the primary sector, and Japan could be virtually classified as a developing country when assessed on the basis of its industrial structure. In those days, Japan began to develop its social security systems which modified and was modeled after those already introduced in the West. This situation is unique to Japan, since Western nations began to deal with this issue only after their economic power had reached a certain level.

Such experience should be evaluated for its unique implications in the context of the design of social security systems in the latecomer countries, and regardless of whether they are negative or positive, they offer insightful original examples that are useful for studying themes such as the development of social security in the latecomer countries, as well as social security in non-Western countries. Moreover, Japan established a universal insurance framework based on the above system at a relatively early stage of economic development, which consequently contributed substantially to its subsequent economic growth. Through the analysis of Japan's social security systems, Japan's experience could be considered as a model for developing countries.

Since social security systems need to be tailored to each country's social and economic status, it is not appropriate to apply Japan's social security systems to other countries without any modification. However, Japan is a country that developed its original social security systems while society was dramatically changing in the prewar and post-war period, and introduced the best practices of the leading nations. Such experience, with both positive and negative aspects, could provide useful lessons, taking into account the prospective economic growth of developing countries.

It is hoped that this handbook will be used by as many specialists in social security fields as possible, and also contribute to the advancement of social security systems in developing countries.

For your comments and inquires, please refer to the following address:
Research Group
Institute for International Cooperation (IFIC)
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
FAX: +81-3-3269-2185