On 20 October, Masato Shizume, Waseda University, will present “The Great Influenza Pandemic in Japan: Policy Responses and Socioeconomic Consequences.” Please note we will meet at 1500 CET, one hour earlier than usual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a link.
This paper explores the socioeconomic consequences of the 1918-1920 Great Influenza Pandemic (GIP) in Japan. First, it reviews the chronological and geographical patterns of the disease’s spread and policy responses by the government. It then employs panel analyses to test the quantitative effects of the pandemic on socioeconomic indicators such as population growth, factory employment, wage, capital formation, and income. The study finds that 1) Japan was hit by the pandemic twice, once in the winter of 1918-1919 and again in the winter to spring of 1919-1920, with the urban population facing a greater risk to life because of greater exposure to the virus, while the rural population was more likely to succumb to the disease when infected, 2) the pandemic seemed to have a noticeable effect on socioeconomic activities in the short and medium terms, suggesting a trigger of population outflows and substitution of labor by capital without any adverse effect on income, and 3) the government response included medical and public health measures but not economic measures. Though the GIP was similar to COVID-19 in terms of epidemiological patterns, it was very different in terms of human agency and socioeconomic consequences.
Masato Shizume is a professor of economic history at Waseda University. His research focuses mainly on the history of money and credit and the emergence and developments of the modern society and state in Japan. His recent publications include The Japanese Economy During the Great Depression: The Emergence of Macroeconomic Policy in A Small and Open Economy, 1931–1936, Springer, 2021; “Historical Evolution of Monetary Policy (Goals and Instruments) in Japan: From the Central Bank of an Emerging Economy to the Central Bank of a Mature Economy,” Stefano Battilossi, Youssef Cassis, and Kazuhiko Yago, editors, Handbook of the History of Money and Currency, 2018.