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This article reviews the major underpinnings of the Japanese welfare state in the context of social care from a feminist perspective. In Japan, familycare responsibilities have traditionally been assigned to women; hence, care has long been a women’s issue. However, as the social contract of a male breadwinner and a ’’professional housewife’’ gradually fades out, Japanese women find more opportunities to renegotiate their caring roles. Of course, this social transformation did not occur in isolation, it was influenced by patterns in economic development, state policies and mainly demographic changes. All this has stimulated new state responses in the form of social welfare expansion that arguably aim to relieve women of the burdens of family-care. The issue remains, however, as to whether Japan would be able to recognise that the main structural issues of population ageing do not originate from demographic changes, but from a strict gendered division of labour and gender inequality.
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