In Research


Year: 2015
Published in: ICSEM Project
Cited as: Kurimoto, A. (2015) “Social Enterprise in Japan: The Field of Health and Social Services”, No. 07.


In Japan, there is neither a common definition of social enterprises (hereafter referred to as SE) nor a public policy to promote them. In the last decade, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) hosted a study group on community businesses, then another one on social businesses, but no consistent efforts to promote them have been made. In the academic domain, some researchers have shown interest in the emerging SE and introduced discourses from other industrialized countries, but there is very little communication among them to create a common understanding or make joint efforts to put SE on the public policy agenda. Some researchers are influenced by the North-American social entrepreneur school while the others adhere to the European EMES school, but it was just a few years ago that exchange began between them. This does not mean there is no such phenomenon or no need for SE; a variety of practices of SE are emerging and there exist crying needs for them in the post-welfare state to cope with the increase in precarious employment and unemployment, financial difficulty in maintaining health and social services, social exclusion of disadvantaged groups and collapsing communities in both the economic and social contexts. We can distinguish between three types of SE, which are often overlapping:

• social service provision SE, which provide health care, elderly/child care, care for the disabled, education and related services;

• work integration SE (WISE), which provide jobs for disadvantaged people excluded from ordinary labor markets;

• community development SE, which provide various services based on community needs in order to enhance local economies.

This paper will focus on SE in health and social service provision. It will give an overview of health and long-term care services in Japan, list types of service providers and compare them in light of EMES indicators. Then, it will identify health co-operatives in urban areas and Koseiren (agricultural co-operative federations) in rural areas as typical SE models, and explain their characteristics (mission, target groups, governance and resources) and institutional trajectories.