Unemployment and Agricultural Structure: Case of Miyada Village, Nagano

In the 1980s, the Japanese economy shifted from the conventional agricultural labor-dependent economy, where capital accumulated while relying on the agricultural labor force, to the unemployed people-dependent economy, where capital accumulated while creating and absorbing unemployed people in response to a business cycle. In the target site of this paper, there were farm families that had unemployed members due to the lingering recession after the Lehman shock. This phenomenon was not found during the post-bubble depression in the early 1990s, which shows the emergence of new conditions brought by the transition of economy type to the unemployed people-dependent economy. Under the Food, Agriculture and Rural Area Basic Act enacted in 1999, agriculture and rural area policies aim to increase employment in rural areas and make them function as a safety net that absorbs unemployed people produced in times of a depression. In fact, the employment rate for elderly people rose at the target site along with the step-by-step raising of the pension eligibility age. This was because people there selected agriculture as a place of work in their old age. On the other hand, however, it is hard to say that agriculture served to fully absorb the unemployed or partially unemployed young and male labor force among farmers. It seems that a change in the employment and agricultural structures of farmers is accompanied by something like "inertia" and that once the direction of change has been established, this inertia makes it difficult for the structures to change direction quickly in a short period of time. On top of that, support for these unemployed people among farmers through policies has been insufficient. The unemployed people-dependent economy has forced a contradictory role on farmers, namely, provider of labor(in good times)and receiver of labor(in a depression). As far as the farmers at the target site are concerned, this contradiction seems to have been "resolved" as their role as a provider of labor has been overriding the role as a receiver of labor.

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Journal of Rural Economics, Volume 84, Number 4
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-12-07

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