Home Sociology Social Work in East Asia
The Reestablishment of the Social Work Profession
After the collapse of the Japanese Empire in 1945, Japan was transformed into a democratic state with a revised democratic Constitution of Japan. During the post-war period, Japan underwent dramatic economic growth characterized by the US–Japan Alliance in the political aspect. The changes, both in the economic and political aspects are significant to the development of social work in Japan. Firstly, the Japanese government perceived that there was a gap in social services between Japan and the United States through the American General Head Quarters' (GHQ) occupation from 1945 to 1951.
GHQ, in order to alleviate extreme poverty, introduced several social programs between 1945 and 1951. These followed the conventional ideas of American social work since the 1930s, which dichotomized the target groups and focused on the needs of the 'deserving' poor, such as children and physically handicapped persons. Regarding the Homen-Iin system, the GHQ deemed it was an Imperial Japanese government because it cooperated with the military during the war. Even though the Homen-Iin took the role of providing social services and gave relief to the public, they worked more for promoting the Imperial Japanese government's policies. Moreover, during the war, the Homen-Iin also took responsibility for educating militarism and recruited numerous resources for supporting the war. Therefore, the Homen-Iin system was compelled to change on GHQ's demand. Consequently, a new system, Minsei-Iin was introduced. Although Minsei-Iin worked between the social welfare officer and citizens, they did not have any decision-making rights (Ito, 1995).
In this sense, the Minsei-Iin system could not be seen as a professional social work system because its function was circumscribed to the accessory role of the social welfare officer. In fact, regarding the development of professional social work, both the Homen-Iin and Minsei-Iin systems made limited contributions: The only difference between them was the change of authority.
The Homen-Iin system provided a mechanism that combined the function of supervision and direct services; however, the Minsei-Iin system played the role of broker, in which their authorized power from the Japanese government was diminished. Consequently, the GHQ's policy, which intended to separate the statutory and voluntary sectors, could be achieved.
In addition, GHQ introduced American social workers to supervise newly employed workers in the Social Welfare Office and several social relief agencies. These American social workers came to the front line and worked with the Japanese social welfare personnel, bringing a new vision regarding social work to their Japanese colleagues. According to Ito (1995), the atmosphere of these agencies was active and the workers were highly motivated. From 1946 to 1952, even though they had endless work because of a lot of needy people, they actively worked and gave public assistance without political propaganda.
In spite of the fact that the eminently positive effect could be seen, since American social workers ushered in the Japanese welfare system, it could not fundamentally change the social work system in Japan. There were two main weaknesses regarding this arrangement: Firstly, the American social workers were too few to deal with direct social work services and indirect social work services at the same time. That is, the American social workers had to supervise the work of social welfare officers on the one hand, and deal with the various needs of starving people, homeless children, and the handicapped on the other.
The American social workers paid more attention to supervising the direct social work rather than the indirect social work services, such as social welfare staff training and social welfare education. As a result, basic reform of social work education and its professionalization could not occur during this period. Secondly, the American social workers were not expected to set up a new model for Japanese social work; they were required to be practical workers, rather than tutors for training Japanese social workers.
Therefore, they did not concentrate on the social workers' training in practical concepts although they had a high standard of professionalism. The Japanese
Moreover, the Japanese government established the Association of Relief for Nationals (Doho Engo Kai), integrating the Association of Relief for Militaries with other major organizations in order to utilize their financial and human resources to give public assistance. However, these quasi-military organizations and other smallscale volunteer organizations largely depended on subsidies from the government in order to escape financial shortages. Hence, under this system, the voluntary institutions became subcontracted organizations of the Japanese government.
All in all, during this period, the Japanese government relied on the quasimilitary organizations providing public assistance; meanwhile, the voluntary organizations were gradually controlled by the Japanese government. Most important of all, these organizations still could not develop the professional skills for social work, and the subcontracted system could not cultivate the professionalism of social work either.
Nevertheless, the GHQ's occupation facilitated the germination of social work education in Japan during 1946–1952. The Japanese School of Social Work was set up in 1946 for providing modern training courses for social workers. However, this education system could not be continued after the occupation finished because the Japanese government tried to keep their own autonomy in education.4
In 1950 the Japanese government implemented the School Education Law in order to abolish the pre-war educational system. The Japan School of Social Work was divided into Japan Junior College of Social Work (Nihon Shakai Jigyo Tanki Daigaku) and Japan Advanced Vocational School of Social Work (Nihon Shakai Jigyo Senmon Gakko).
This reform downgraded the Japanese School of Social Work, rather than reorganizing it into a four-year college (Japan University of Social Work, 1996). In this way, the Japanese government did de-professionalized the in field service of social work.
4 During the occupation, the relationship between the GHQ and the Japanese government was not the absolute relation described as superordination and subordination. Yet, sometimes the Japanese government could selectively decide if the GHQ's directives should be obeyed or not. The Japanese government could obtain more autonomy because it had a submissive attitude towards the American occupation. Moreover, in the following period of the Cold War, the Japanese government cooperated with the United States and became its firmest partner in East Asia. In addition, the professionalism of social work, particularly the concept of casework, was not developed because of the administrative arrangement and the design of the lower educational level.
This fact resulted in social welfare policies being mostly directed to the modification of the social security system during the 1950s and the 1960s. Both central government and local governments ignored the public social services (Anderson, 1993). Furthermore, the Japanese government applied the placement system (Sochi Seido) to solve the problem of the lack of direct social workers (Kitaba, 2005).
Under the placement system, all the clients were firstly examined by the welfare offices, which were the sole agent to determine who should receive what types of social services, and usually provided institutional services. Nakamura (2003) argues that the placement system implies the exclusive authority of public servants to determine the flow of social welfare services. Therefore, the professionalism of social work was not the Japanese government's main concern.
For delivering welfare benefits, the Japanese government relied on the official clerical workers with lower educational requirements to examine the clients. Social workers with independent working skills were unable to work in or for the Japanese government – most worked in hospitals and the private sector with lower salaries and work status.
In conclusion, before the 1970s the professionalism of social work in Japan could not be developed successfully even though American occupation had brought some training courses and established a professional school of social work. The Japanese government, including both central government and local governments, ignored the development of professionalism within social work, such as the skills of counselling and psychotherapeutic abilities. Therefore, the social workers looked like social welfare administrators and carried out various clerical duties without full professional social work training.
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