“Study of social welfare” is considered to be a “study for practice.” I define it as a “study for action with solidarity based on principles.” Therefore, I believe that the study of social welfare has the possibility to have an impact on the society, or rather it must.
Now, the society that we live in today, is it such that one’s “dignity” is upholded and people’s “rights” are protected? Fundamentally, “social welfare” means “happiness and stable living of one, as a member of the society.” Is this secured for all? Is the society tolerant towards diverse ways of being and living where people accept each other? I cannot help but feel that our current society is moving in the opposite direction from what social welfare is striving for.
As we face low birth rate, aging population, declining population and diversifying of family units, we are living in an era where conditions surrounding social welfare is ever evolving. Reshaping of industrial structures and employment structures are resulting in proliferating unstable working conditions, non-regular employment, low wages and poverty. In addition, deterioration of community functions and weakening relation between blood relatives and local communities, alienation caused by various discriminations and large-scale natural disasters are endangering not only our living but also our lives. It means that we are living in a time when numerous social problems that jeopardize our daily living are occurring. Under such social circumstances and development, people are facing manifold livelihood problems and life challenges.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020, problems related to loneliness, isolation and livelihood crisis have deepened and have become more apparent. Being infected by the virus was considered to be one’s responsibility, which caused exclusion and discrimination towards those infected. In 2020, increased cases of suicide especially among children and women, first rise of suicide cases in 11 years, was reported. It illustrates how challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic were concentrated in a certain population. Furthermore, the foundation which nurtures stable relationships, where people can recognise oneself as a member of the society including the community, workplace, school and family, being threatened resulted in pushing people towards grave loneliness and isolation.
Society with widespread predicaments and difficulties must be challenged. We are now facing crucial questions such as how should our society be like? What kind of a society are we seeking for? What kind of a society should we achieve and pass on to our future? If the world today is unjust and unreasonable, we must raise our voices against it. Study of social welfare must oppose such unjust structures of the world. The world will not be ameliorated otherwise. Within these times and societal conditions, we shall reflect on what study of social welfare can do, must do, its purposes, roles and duties. I hope to propel our society (Japanese Society for the Study of Social Welfare)’s actions towards materializing these values.
Our society will celebrate its 70th year in 2024. We are approaching a milestone of our footsteps. It is vital that we support our members to inherit and to develop a society with history and tradition, and for the succession of the study of social welfare. Support for early-stage researchers’ research activities, career support, care givers’ and parents’ research activities, education and practice-based activities are also essential. Organizing of conferences and forums across Japan, publishing of the society’s academic journal, activities of regional blocks and various other projects will be promoted through close collaboration with the members. Through these measures, we hope to advance support and learning amongst the members.
Now more than ever, study of social welfare is required. We invite all to learn from each other and learn together the “study of social welfare.”