Lifetime Employment in Japan: Concepts and Measurements

28 Pages Posted: 6 May 2011

Date Written: 2010


This paper addresses three questions: (1) How big is lifetime employment in Japan? (2) How unique is it? and (3) How is it changing? Through the use of multiple data sets and methods, I find that no more than 20% of workers in Japan are likely to be employed under informal lifetime employment contracts, a far smaller percentage than has been reported. Job mobility remains considerably lower in Japan than in other advanced economies (particularly the US). Evidence regarding changes in lifetime employment is mixed. The share of workers in the core is declining, but the probability of job separations has remained stable for those who are already in the system. There is also evidence that the economic stagnation of the 1990s disproportionately affected females and younger workers.

Keywords: lifetime employment, job mobility, human capital, internal labor market

JEL Classification: J21, J24, J62

Suggested Citation

Ono, Hiroshi, Lifetime Employment in Japan: Concepts and Measurements (2010). Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 1-27, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Hiroshi Ono (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University ( email )

Department of Sociology
College Station, TX 77843-4351
United States
979 458 3530 (Phone)

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