Jacoby Addresses Japanese Leaders on Sharing Economy

UCLA Luskin’s Sanford M. Jacoby, distinguished research professor of public policy, management and history, spoke recently to leaders of the Japan Federation of Transport Workers Unions.   The federation is a branch of RENGO (Japan’s equivalent of the AFL-CIO) and currently has about 50,000 members — most of whom belong to enterprise unions affiliated with individual companies — said Jacoby, describing the Japanese system. Also attending the Nov. 20, 2017 meeting were several members of the Japanese Diet’s House of Councillors, the equivalent of the U.S. Senate, from the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshintō). Jacoby, an economist by training, spoke about the positive and negative aspects of a sharing economy. The primary focus of the talk was about companies such as Airbnb and Uber, which remain controversial in Japan and in European countries, explained Jacoby, who has studied Uber’s delayed entry into the Japanese market. Although Airbnb was recently legalized there in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics, Uber presents a different problem. Under current Japanese national transportation laws, a service such as Uber is unlawful. “There are contending forces to both legalize it and to prevent its entry into Japan,” said Jacoby, who studies employers, labor market institutions and international political economy. Rather than competing head-on with taxi companies, Uber has begun partnering with them. Jacoby said the situation remains uncertain, but this type of collaboration may be Uber’s future in Japan. — Stan Paul

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