This interdisciplinary panel addresses the issue of diversity and diversification in work and the workplace in Japan. The panel aims at examining risk and opportunity structures emerging due to growing diversity as well as at exploring the multifaceted implications of diversification.
Diversity has become a buzzword in recent years, in Japan and elsewhere. No matter whether it is with regard to organizational leadership, government agencies, or civil society institutions, diversity - understood as a practical concept for structural change - features prominently in various discourses. It also has become a widely used research concept for analyzing differences and differentiations between social groups delimited by gender, age, sexual orientation, health, or mental and physical ability, among others. Still, the exact meanings and boundaries of diversity remain rather undefined. Whether seen from the practical or the analytical perspective, diversity is a concept applicable to all realms of social life, and differentiation becomes particularly visible in the context of work and employment, implying both opportunities and risks. On the positive side, it is argued that well managed diversity can increase the satisfaction, performance, motivation, and innovative potential of all parties involved. A more critical reading notes that diversity can also stand for growing inequalities and friction due to growing heterogeneity. Whatever the case, it is obvious that processes of diversification lead to considerable changes in the work and employment environments, and Japan is currently experiencing such processes on multiple levels. This interdisciplinary panel addresses the issue of diversity and diversification in the social realm of work and the workplace in Japan by combining - based on the disciplines of political science, psychology and media analysis - different analytic perspectives on the political, educational, and economic system as well as on cultural representations of diversity and the self-perceptions of those involved. It looks at both how diversity at the workplace is reflected in discourses and at the impact diversity and processes of diversification have on institutional frameworks of employment, the organization of work, as well as on individuals and actor groups. In doing so, the panel aims at examining risks and opportunities emerging due to growing diversity, factors influencing the process of diversification, as well as at exploring its multifaceted implications. Furthermore, it contributes to the ongoing discussion on how to define diversity and how to apply it as an analytic category in research.