There has been a long history of the co-operative movement in Japan. Traditional cooperatives such as agricultural co-operative or consumer co-operative have played an important role in protecting the livelihood of farmers or consumers. In addition, new types of co-operative have appeared since the end of the twentieth century in Japan. On the one hand, some co-operatives have provided social welfare services in response to increasing demand for social services. On the other hand, workers’ co-operative have appeared since 1980’s. Although there is no legal form for workers’ co-operative in Japan, we can see various types of co-operative of, by and for workers. We can regard new types of co-operative in the welfare field as social enterprise. According to the development of researches on social enterprise globally (Borzaga and Defourny 2001, Nyssens 2006), the studies of social enterprise in
Japan are progressing in the last decade. Especially, some researchers in Japan have focused on the providing social services or job opportunities for vulnerable people (Hashimoto 2012; 2014).
This study describes the present status of the welfare provision by co-operatives. It will adopt the following approach. Firstly, it makes clear the uniqueness of social enterprise. Secondly, it shows the overview of co-operatives in Japan. Thirdly, it shows the role of the third sector organizations (nonprofit organizations or co-operatives) in the aging society in Japan. It will also analyze the current state of the provision of the welfare services for elderly people by the third sector organizations. Fourthly, it describes the provision of care services for elderly people by the co-operative sector. Finally, it presents a conclusion.