Monthly Archives: April 2010

Social Enterprises or Solidarity Economy?

As I’ve been trying to link East Asian players of solidarity economy with their counterparts in the rest of the world, recently I’ve come across quite a few people who work for social enterprises and I realised that this term is much more popular here (in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and recently in China too) than solidarity economy.  These two movements seem to pursue similar goals but I’d like to make clear the fundamental difference between these two concepts.

It’s quite important to remember the fact that the first initiative of social enterprise emerged in United Kingdom and that this spread into other countries, especially other English-speaking ones.   On the other hand, the use of the word “solidarity economy” is quite common in those countries where one of Romance languages is spoken, such as France, Italy, Spain, Canada (especially Québec), Latin America and Senegal.  And this explains why the term “solidarity economy” remains almost unknown in Asia, as nowadays the use of French, Spanish and Portuguese is very rare, if any, in this continent.

The key concept of social entrepreneurship is that you run a business with social and/or eco-friendly goals, such as creating jobs for the handicapped and providing microcredit to financially-excluded poor communities, not necessarily challenging the conventional capitalism.  That is why thousands of private-owned corporations with some social goals are also regarded as social enterprises, which is little plausible in case of solidarity economy.  And I found a conference on social entrepreneurship with HSBC as sponsor, but I can’t imagine this multinational financial institution working together solidarity economy.  Maybe they’re concerned rather about building a sustainable capitalism than about achieving social justice.

Solidarity economy, on the contrary, has been promoted as an alternative to the neoliberal globalisation, especially at World Social Forum, the counterforum for World Economic Forum, and players see any sort of capitalism as exploitative.  So workers’ coops and other sorts of cooperatives are the main players of this economy, although some social enterprises can fit into this category too.

I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that these two different cultures have promoted different terms as these two are based on different socioeconomic values.  Nobody doubts that capitalism has been developed at best in Anglo-Saxon countries, and social entrepreneurship is much more convenient than solidarity economy for, at least, some people there since this will keep the very structure of capitalism intact while those with Latin passion tend to question it.  And in this sense Asia is so Anglo-Saxonised that the élites find it much easier to deal with social enterprises than solidarity-based cooperatives, also with the aim to preserve the capitalist principles.

Maybe I’m biased, but for me this is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced with as promoter of solidarity economy, as Asians tend to prefer English-speaking world to the Latin world.  What can we do to trigger a paradigm shift here?

Shiga Prefecture, Japan will work for new complementary currency initiatives to save its ecosystem and potentially to create new jobs

A conference took place at Ôtsu, Shiga on Wed, 07th April 2010 on a potential introduction of complementary currency systems to promote the environmental preservation as well as to churn out more jobs in Shiga, Japan.

Shiga Prefecture, located next to Kyôto Prefecture(*), is home to Japan’s largest lake, called Lake Biwa, which provides fresh water to residents and industries not only in Shiga but also in Kyôto, Ôsaka and Hyôgo (capital: Kôbe) Prefectures.  People’s concern to keep the water quality in the lake promoted ecological movements and gave birth to a female ecologist governor Yukiko Kada in July 2006.  Bernard Lietaer, a Belgian specialist on complementary currencies, was invited to Japan to give some hints to the prefecture and met the governor to give the outline on the potential of this tool to promote eco-friendly policies in the prefecture.

Term: Japan is composed of 47 prefectures which are usually called as “ken” (such as Hiroshima-ken and Nagasaki-ken), except “to” for Tôkyô (Tôkyô-to), “fu” for Kyôto and Ôsaka (Kyôto-fu and Ôsaka-fu) and “dô” for Hokkaidô (well, in case of Hokkaidô it isn’t called as Hokkaidô-dô but simply Hokkaidô).

He began his lecture by referring to the fact that our large scale systems, designed for the industrial age, are in crisis as we face with post-industrial realities, showing that currency systems are, contrary to people’s common belief, not “value neutral” and that different monetary systems are needed to achieve different socioeconomic goals, especially given that the current national currency has too much yang (male) feature, undermining our society’s balance, requiring us to have other currencies to strengthen yin (female) features.

Lietaer’s proposal is to introduce two different sorts of complementary currencies to deal with different issues with which Shiga Prefecture is facing: the first one is to charge an ecological local tax which is only payable in a new complementary currency to be called as “Biwa” and the lecturer told that four European cities (Bristol, Brussels, Liverpool and Luxembourg) are considering the introduction of a similar scheme.  Residents in Shiga will be asked to earn some Biwa either by doing some voluntary activities to improve the local environment or by purchasing such amount of Biwa from somebody else, similar to what happens in terms of CO2 emission.  The second one is to introduce a B2B currency, similar to the one practiced in Uruguay and Brazil, to boost trades among corporations in Shiga so that more jobs can be created.

It seems that Shiga pays more attention to environmental aspects than socioeconomic ones of complementary currencies as the audience at the lecture were asking questions almost exclusively on Biwa while they seemed to be little concerned about the worsening labour conditions.  It is worth remembering, though, that Shiga is also home to thousands of Brazilian immigrants who are suffering from the layoffs as the manufacturing sector in this country is facing with some hardships, making it urgent to create jobs to save them out of misery, and it would be highly recommended that Shiga also should start studying the model of Banco Palmas, Fortaleza, Brazil, which has managed to churn out a number of jobs in an improverished neighbourhood, if it really finds it important to create new job opportunities both for Brazilians and the Japanese.

1st Solidarity Economy Social Forum

The 1st Solidarity Economy Social Forum took place at Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil from 22nd to 24th January 2010, showing achievements in different aspects of this new economy and defining challenges to get over, with hundreds of participants mostly from all over Brazil and neighbouring countries (especially Argentina and Uruguay) but also from United States, Canada, Europe and Japan (well, it’s actually only myself).  Most participants to this event moved to Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul and/or neighbouring cities where more discussion went on during the World Social Forum 10th Anniversary from 25th to 29th January.

On Fri, 22nd January this event began with remembering the path people have gone through so far in the last decade (since the 1st World Social Forum took place at Porto Alegre in January 2001), followed by two plenary sessions which took place in parallel (“Opening of the National Seminar, Fair and Solidarity Trade at Brazilian Domestic Markets” and “Intercontinental Assembly: Solidarity Economy and World Social Forum – retrospectives and perspectives.”) I attended the international one where participants from other countries praised Brazil’s numerous achievements in terms of solidarity economy (the creation of National Secretary of Solidarity Economy (SENAES) and of Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy (FBES), for instance) on top of asking Brazil to take further initiatives to spread solidarity economy into abroad too, and some argued the importance to coordinate custom policies among Mercosur countries (such as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) so that more goods of solidarity economy can be traded beyond borders.

The Day 2 (Sat, 23rd January) was spent for five different workshops (“Solidarity Finance”, “Education and Culture”, “International Solidarity Integration”, “Solidarity Production / Commercialisation / Consumption” and “Food and Nutritional Sovereignty”). I was at the Solidarity Finance session where seven speakers (including myself) gave presentations.  Heloísa Primavera from REDLASES, Argentina mentioned that current monetary system is designed to provide money insufficiently and that the Central Bank of Brazil is now starting to provide technical services for community currencies.  She criticised that solidarity economy is still regarded as poor people’s economic activities, suggesting a paradigm shift that this is a new development model.  Then followed I, as Online Laboratory on Complementary Currencies JAPAN, mentioning some points such as the character of today’s money as debt, the impossibility of local communities and of national governments to control their own means of exchange, exponential growth forced by compound interest rate and the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich and showing some examples of complementary currency.  Then followed Paulo Moreira from Rede Estadual de Trocas Solidárias (the State Network of Solidarity Trade), Rio Grande do Sul who talked briefly about his practices of barter fairs in which people do not use real (R$, Brazil’s official currency) but barter tickets to exchange goods.

Other speakers gave their own presentations too: Rogério Dalló, secretary general of COLACOT (Confederação Latinoamericana de Cooperativas e Mutuais de Trabalhadores, Latin American Confederation of Workers’ Cooperatives and Mutuals) from Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil said that in his country credit unions makes up for only 4% of all deposits, criticised the harsh trend propelled by the neoliberal policies, such as Basel II and BIS (Bank for International Settlements) and told that some Latin American countries such as Dominican Republic and Paraguay did not introduce them in the way neoliberals wanted, suggesting credit unions to be exempt from Basel II and to set up the World Bank of Solidarity Economy.  Joaquim Melo, founder of Banco Palmas at Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil, told that a huge poverty in Brazil is triggered by the fact that a half of Brazilians are excluded from access to financial institutions, saying that community banks such as the Banco Palmas (http://www.bancopalmas.org.br/ and http://www.banquepalmas.fr/) which he established are a solidarity financial service in network, of associative and communitarian nature, dedicated to reorganise local economies in the prospect to churn out jobs and incomes of solidarity economy.  Celina Whitaker from France explained about her initiative of complementary currency called SOL project, telling that it was conceived from the idea to reconsider money, based on other indicators than GDP and defining solidarity economy as a means to achieve the struggle’s goals, showing how this complementary currency can be used (as loyalty point for solidarity economy shops, time banks and points for volunteers).  And as the last speaker, Haroldo Mendonça from SENAES mentioned the Banco do Nordeste (Bank of the Northeast) and its worldwide recognition on top of underscoring Central Bank’s efforts to support community banks which issue local currencies.  Another proposal was made to support the social struggle of the Alianza Cooperativa Nacional in Mexico.

On Sun, 24th January as many as 20 workshops were held, dealing with a wide of topics such as food and nutritional sovereignty, urban agriculture, international integration, joint management by public sector and NGOs, solidarity education and culture, socialist identity in solidarity economy, incubators for people’s coops, online space for solidarity economy (CIRANDAS), establishing supply chains, youth’s involvement and another consumption. In the afternoon summaries on the discussion on Saturday was done, recognising that there have been reciprocal effects between solidarity economy and world social forum which helped local players of solidarity economy to be articulated intercontinentally, needs to coordinate public policies, importance for the mapping of initiatives, protests to the current situation in which big corporations control food supply, creation of the seed bank, people’s right for food, solidarity between cities and the countryside, the importance of fair trade not only North-South but also North-North and South-South and paradigm shift in the development model.

Discussions continued next week in Greater Porto Alegre, with some interesting seminars such as public policies in different countries (Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay and Quebec) and economy of gratuity where five speakers from Bolivia, Brazil, France and Uruguay spoke.  Speakers said that in Brazil solidarity economy is based on the democratic tradition and was strengthened during Lula administration (2003-present) by the setup of National Secretary of Solidarity Economy (SENAES) and Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy (FBES) while in Paraguay solidarity economy is still brand-new and in Mexico people are struggling for the law in favour of credit union.  In terms of economy of gratuity, some interesting points were given, for instance that in the current economy fundamental mercantilism is rampant, healthcare is the public goods and therefore should be free of charge.

My impression is that the total length of eight consecutive days for these two forums were, to be honest, a bit too long and tiring for participants, especially given that discussion were done in the midst of summer at places without air conditioner.  And the distance among different seminar and workshop venues during the World Social Forum in Greater Porto Alegre was another inconvenient factor.  From the visitor’s viewpoint, it would be helpful if the forum could take place at universities and/or other indoor places with good logistics.

And another challenge to improve these forums is to strengthen the intercontinental network as well as interpretation services so that non Latin-Americans also could attend this forum and exchange experiences.  It was a pity that I was the only participant from Asia and that the participation from out of Latin America was much less than I had thought (I saw less than 10 non Latin-Americans during the whole event).  More efforts will be expected, should the 2nd Solidarity Economy Social Forum take place, to enhance non-Latin-American participation and evolve this movement into the worldwide one.

9th National Assembly of Workers’ Collective Network Japan

The 9th National Assembly of Workers’ Collective Network Japan (WNJ) took place on Sat, 05th and Sun, 06th December at Saitama (near Tokyo), Japan. Nearly 600 people, mostly (more than 90%) housewives in their 50s or 60s, came from different parts of this Asian country to this venue to see the colleagues they usually can’t see face to face due to the large distance which separate them, exchanging their experiences. I am sincerely grateful to WNJ for its invaluable efforts to elaborate a well-done booklet which has been quite helpful in writing this report.

The Workers’ Collective Network Japan has been organising its national assembly every two years since 1993 to which prefectural branches and other associates attend. The first workers’ collective in Japan, called “Ninjin” (which means “carrot”), was found in Kanagawa in 1982, followed by others in Tokyo and Chiba in 1984 and other prefectures. It is quite important to note the fact that most of them have been born as initiatives of consumers’ coops*, which were already quite active all over the country, in order to satisfy unmet socioeconomic needs, especially in the realms of deli service, childcare and elderly care. In other words, most workers’ collectives have been in close touch with existing consumers’ coops, and this aspect has its own advantages as well as disadvantages to be mentioned later. And it is also true that the movement has not spread into the whole country evenly, with some prefectures with dozens of workers’ collectives while some others still have none.

* Some non-Japanese actors of solidarity economy tend to misunderstand that the term “Seikatsu” (which means “daily life” in Japanese) is the name for consumers’ coops throughout the country: actually the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union (in English, Spanish, Korean and Japanese) is only active in some prefectures in Eastern Japan while, for instance Fukuoka, where the author currently resides, has Green Coop and F Coop.  The best term in Japanese to describe the whole movement of consumers’ coop is “Shôhisha Seikyô” (Consumers’ Coop).

The assembly began with 7 workshops which were simultaneously held on Saturday afternoon. The 1st workshop dealt with the law-making process since Japan has still no law at all to rule workers’ collectives, discussing a revision of the Insurance Business Act to take into effect in April 2011 will affect negatively on mutual aid associations. Mr. Atsushi Fujii from Rikkyô Univ. gave another presentation on the Social Enterprise Development Act in South Korea, telling that this law is the fruit of the anti-poverty movement together with labour unions there as such businesses which provide employment and/or social services to the fragile social class are recognised as social enterprises, entitled to tax benefits, subsidies and other supports and suggesting some strategies to the Japanese audience. Finally Ms. Masako Ogawara (senator) gave an outline on the process towards the approval of the law in this respect. The 2nd workshop was about the child and elderly care services provided by workers’ collectives, with four speakers sharing their day-to-day experiences and showing how their help has been improving users’ life standard.

The 3rd workshop was about deli services where the harsh reality was presented and discussed. In the greater Tokyo area 28 out of 63 workers’ collectives are in the red and the presenter paid attention to the fact that Kanagawa has more profitable enterprises than other prefectures, guessing that the better financial performance there is perhaps thanks to the close relationship between the deli service and other sectors of Seikatsu Club Group such as elderly care. It should be reminded of the fact that most delis cost more than 500 yen (US$5.50) in the current deflationary trend where ordinary businesses sell as cheap as 200 yen (US$2.20), which makes consumers to choose economical options although they understand the significance of those goods from such workers’ collectives.

The 4th workshop was about workers collectives’ management and five successful cases of elderly care, childcare, deli etc. were shown. A remarkable initiative at Sakura, Chiba combines different activities, such as recollection of used rapeseed oil, recycling, organic food and deli service, paying 1,000 to 1,300 yen (US$ 11.10 to 14.40) per hour to its members according to each one’s experience, on top of distributing fliers to its neighbours when the sale was stagnated. The 5th workshop was about the childcare service and one speaker accentuated the importance of such child care centres as a hub for the whole community while another speaker mentioned the costliness of this service due to its labour-intensive style.

The 6th workshop was about the community building in which workers’ collectives work closely with consumers’ coops. One initiative in Kanagawa leverages all existing resources of consumers’ coops, such as advertisement channels and self-management experiences, to promote people’s participation to the elderly care. Another speaker mentioned about the establishment of another social welfare juridical person in Fukuoka as a joint project of a workers’ collective with another consumers’ coop. The 7th workshop explored the possibility for everybody in the community to work, showing initiatives of dishwashing service, bakery and deli services etc. which gives employment to cocooning youth, the handicapped and other people who had suffered from social exclusion before joining workers’ collectives.

Sunday morning began with some greetings, including one from a vice-governor of Saitama, followed with six presentations on draft plans of new workers’ collectives, ranging from urban agriculture support to childcare and deli services. It was the first time that WNJ asked the youth out of its own network to give a presentation on such cases with the aim to spread out the very concept of workers’ collective to new sorts of people and participants rather enjoyed the uniqueness of these drafts than studied the feasibility (some projects by students were hugely dependent on the contributions from their professors). On the afternoon nine other workshops, ranging from the commercialisation of products workers’ collective make, food issue, NPO Bank ** to the youth, were done.

** The most popular term in Japan to designate solidarity finance is NPO Bank (“NPO” in Japanese means “non-profit”), although other businesses can borrow money from such financial institutions.

This assembly was virtually my first time to learn about the practices of workers’ collectives in Japan and I could see both their achievements and what is at stake: the close connection between them and consumers’ coops is beneficial in the sense that deli makers, restaurants etc. can be provided from other players of solidarity economy with organic food etc., while raising the raw material cost and making these businesses less profitable. It would improve their cost performance to replace expensive raw materials with other stuffs available in the conventional supply chain, but this would be the last thing to come to their mind because these workers’ collectives have been conceived as a way to strengthen the cooperative spirit of the existing consumers’ coops into other socioeconomic fields.

Also it should not be forgotten that most people at workers’ collectives are paid below the minimum wage (in Japan each prefecture determines its own minimum wage and it ranges from 791 yen (US$8.78) in Tokyo to 629 yen (US$6.89) in Okinawa etc.) and that they are therefore obliged to have other income sources (either their husbands’ income or their pension) to sustain themselves. This fact may mislead to a potential perception that workers’ collectives are only for well-off housewives and the retired who are little worried about making money, and it will be urgently needed for them to come up with other business models in order to churn out such jobs which would allow men to sustain the whole family. In this respect it would be very useful to study what the Korean Law on Social Enterprises has achieved to see which elements can be applied for the Japanese legal system, on top of stimulating the exchanges with workers’ coops in other continents such as Europe and Latin America.

The 2nd Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy

The 2nd Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy took place on Sat, 7th and Sun, 8th November 2009 at the United Nations University, Aoyama Gakuin University and Women’s Plaza, Tokyo, Japan.  About 320 participants from 11 countries attended this international event, learning both the theoretical foundations as well as practices of solidarity economy both in Japan, Asia and other parts of the world.  On top of that, more than 10 NGOS had their booths to show their products and activities, allowing visitors and bystanders to witness the diversity of the realm of solidarity economy.

The conference began with an introductory speech by Ms. Yoko Kitazawa, one of the founders of the PARC (Pacific Asia Resource Center), admitting the seldom use of the term “solidarity economy” in Asia, explaining its historical development in Europe and mentioning RIPESS and WSSE at Alliance 21 as key global networks which have driven this movement forward.  Then followed a video conference by Mr. Pierre Calame, of FPH, who told that the cliché “21st century is for Asia” is also true in terms of solidarity economy, arguing the need to transform our economy into the one in which “territories” (French speakers preferred this term while a number of English speakers told me that it should be replaced with the word “communities”) can manage their own currencies and energy source, putting their workforce for social cohesion and making themselves more self-sufficient.

The Session 1 was about the perspective of the solidarity economy in the world and three speakers shared their vision (another speaker was supposed to come from Brazil but had to cancel his trip because of his sudden illness).  First Mr. Vincent Dagenais from Québec, Canada mentioned three key issues: social exclusion of the poor who have no access to credits, need to participatory community management and food sovereignty, concluding that the globalisation excludes people while solidarity economy includes them.   The second speakers, Ms. Martine Theveniaut from France and Mr. Yvon Poirier from Canada, presented their initiative called “Pactes Locaux” (“Local Agreements” in English) which tries to link territory-based activities (environment, society, culture, finance and governance) on the global level.  The third speaker, Mr. David Thompson from Job Australia said about the two economies in his country, i.e. the mainstream economy which seeks for its greed and another economy in search for common goods, hoping that today’s serious issues such as climate change, peak oil and food crisis will drive us towards further transformation.

The Session 2 focuses on Asia and six speakers from five different countries gave their own stories.  The first speaker, Mr. Benjamin Quiñones from the Philippines, main organiser of the 1st Asian Forum in October 2007 in Manila, talked about his own network CSRSME which consists of Philippine small and medium sized businesses with social and environmental responsibility, saying that he tries to create the supply chain among these businesses and to improve their performance.  Then followed Mr. Denison Jayasooria from Binary University, Malaysia who depicted briefly his country’s economic growth as well as severe income gap and the underdeveloped rural areas, although he sees this circumstance as new opportunities because different initiatives are emerging to fill in the gap, such as microcredit and cooperative movements.  And as an example Mr. Shaun Isaac showed his initiative to build IT hub centres at 42 communities all over Malaysia with the aim to help people, especially women, to leverage the Internet access to commercialise better their goods and services.  Then followed Ms. Ira Shah, from Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), India who told about their microcredit initiatives and the expansion of their network to the whole South Asia and even to Afghanistan.

The fourth speaker, Mr. Won-bong Jang from Social Investment Support Foundation, Korea, talked about the current situation of social enterprises as well as that of regional self-help centres in his country.  Currently there are 251 social enterprises acknowledged by the Ministry of Labor, with either job creation or provision of social services (or sometimes both of them) as their main goal and working for the weak, the elderly and the handicapped.  And there are 242 self-help centres, with 2,967 examples with 26,691 employees.  The last speaker, Mr. Jun Nishikawa from Waseda University, Japan, depicted the structure of the Japanese economy, saying that in Japan politicians and other conventional élite have been rather ruling than helping the non-profit sector such as farmers’ coops and consumers’ coops, although new sorts of non-profit activities have been emerging since 1990s.

The Session 3 was focused on the solidarity finance and four speakers gave their presentations.  The first one, Bernd Balkenhol from ILO, gave an overview of social finance and its difference from the conventional one as the social one takes care of environmental and social values too on top of pursuing financial profit.  Then Ms. Viviane Vandemeulebroucke from INAISE gave a talk on her organisation as well as on some member institutions in Europe such as Triodos Bank, the Netherlands, Clann Credo, Ireland and La NEF, France.  The third speaker, Ms. Micol Pistelli from Washington D.C., United States gave a presentation on MIX, a NGO which gives analysis on the performance of microcredit all over the world.  Finally Ms. Mariko Kawaguchi, from Daiwa Institute of Research Holdings , a think tank which belongs to a commercial security corporation in Japan, explained the current situation of social finance in this East-Asian country, suggesting the non-profit sector to leverage those social finance services provided by conventional financial institutions.

The Session 4 was about the role for social enterprises to play.  The first speaker, Mr. Benjamin Quiñones who had already spoken at the Session 2, showed different social enterprises and coops in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, such as artisans’ group, solidarity tourism, affordable housing, healthy coffee, funeral service and organic farm of green tea.  The second speaker, Ms. Chigusa Fujiki from Workers’ Collective Network Japan, showed different initiatives in her country, such as catering service (restaurants and lunchbox services), bakery, jam, café, kindergarten and transportation service for the elderly.  The third speaker, Ms. Jung-eun Ha from the Work Together Foundation, Korea told that the miserable job quality there gave birth to social enterprises in order to provide better job opportunities to the impoverished, mentioning the law by way of which the government gives subsidies up to 2 years to those enterprises acknowledged as social enterprise.  And the last presenter, Mr. Kendo Otaka from Seigakuin Univ., Japan, showed some challenges of the solidarity economy sector there, showing some examples of social exclusion and suggesting existing solidarity economy actors to play the role of social and territorial inclusion too.

On Sunday morning there were five different workshops: “social finance”, “fair trade”, “elderly care and health service”, “self-sufficient style communities” and “international solidarity tax”.  Then the Session 5 dealt with indicators and evaluation method in terms of the achievement of solidarity economy, and three speakers showed their own practices.  The first one, Ms. Micol Pistelli who had already spoken at the Session 3, gave details on the evaluation method provided by her NGO called MIX, followed by Mr. Rolando Victoria from ASKI, the Philippines, who shared their own experience of evaluation with the final result of A-.  The final speaker, Edith Sizoo from Paris, told about the significance of the Charter of Human Responsibilities.  The last session was dedicated to the elaboration of the consensus of this forum, and the final document is expected to be published before long.  The 3rd Asian Forum for Solidarity Economy will be held in 2011 in Malaysia.

My remark in this conference is that most actors of solidarity economy in Japan belong to high middle class who are rather concerned with satisfying their needs (especially organic food and elderly care) while job creation and the struggle against poverty take a backseat to customer satisfaction.  Japan has been going through radical changes of its economic and social structure, nevertheless, including aging population, worsening balance sheet of the public sector and dismantling of the middle class, and it is essential that the solidarity economy movement in Japan as a whole should be aware of these current trends if it really wants to show alternatives to those who really suffer from the status quo.

Relaunching my blog

I’m very sorry not to have written anything for 2 years and a half.

One of the reasons why I stopped to write my blog is that it takes too much time to prepare contents in six languages, and on taking into account the amount of responses I’ve got so far, I found it better to stop writing in French and German to concentrate on more responsive versions.  So from now on I’ll post articles in English, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

Recently I’ve got some interesting news, and I’ll put them here as soon as possible.  Keep tuned in!

Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota

Author of the blog “Towards the economic democratization”