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Conference: Labor and (Im)mobility in Japan and East and Southeast Asia: Transnational, Regional and Rural-Urban Perspectives

QuaMaFA, VSJF, JDZB | Biao Xiang

Labor migration but also immobility resulting from the pandemic are in focus at this year’s English-language conference of the German Association for Social Science Research on Japan, taking place at JDZB from Nov 3-5.

Lifetime full-time employment and the male breadwinner model have been recognized as key characteristics of the Japanese employment system. Nevertheless, demographic change, urbanization, and deregulation in employment have led to adjustments in the employment system, including the integration of women, the elderly, and international and internal migrants. At the same time, gendered forms of regular and irregular employment continue to persist in the Japanese labor market. This phenomenon is not unique to Japan, but can also be observed in other Asian economies, such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, which are exposed to similar economic, demographic and social changes. Some Asian economies undergo internal migration from rural to industrial or business centers or experience international migration from economically developing countries. Furthermore, travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic and economic and social uncertainties have led to career, geographical, and social (im)mobility within and beyond borders. To shed light on these developments, this conference reconsiders how workers experience (im)mobility within/beyond borders, how they grapple with new work styles (such as remote work) and how employers, governments, or other non-state actors shape labor and employment in contemporary East and Southeast Asia.

The conference examines the complex interlinkages of (im)mobility and labor with demographic change, rural decline, the emergence of global cities and (offshore) economic
zones, and the subsequent socio-cultural change in East and Southeast Asia. It provides a platform for discussing emerging trends and unexpected developments captured by empirical research on labor and (im)mobility within East and Southeast Asian economies. Doing so the conference aims at driving theoretical advancements of the way socio-economic, cultural and demographic changes are interwoven and mutually affecting. This interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach problematizes simplistic dichotomies such as migration from the Global South to the Global North or upward social mobility through rural-urban migration. The conference seeks to disentangle local/municipal, national, and transnational processes of labor and (im)mobility in Japan and the wider region.

The conference is organized by Ruth Achenbach (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany), Helena Hof (University of Zurich / Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany), Aimi Muranaka (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany), Joohyun Justine Park (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany), Megha Wadhwa (Free University of Berlin, Germany), JDZB and VSJF.


This is an in-person event. If you would like to attend, please book your tickets here.

About the Venue
Saargemünder Str. 2
Berlin, Berlin 14195 Germany

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