Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo: Similarities and Differences


  • Tatsuro Suehara


In this essay, I attempt a comparison of two labor exchange systems employed respectively by Japanese and Congolese (Tembo) peasants. The Japanese system is known as yui, while the Tembo system is called likilimbaYui and likilimba have several basic principles in common: (1) mutual assistance, (2) exchange of equal amount of labor, and (3) no use of money or hired labor. At the same time, they are completely different in several points. The most distinctive difference between the two systems is in the basic unit between which labor is exchanged. In the case of the yui system, it is between households that labor is exchanged, while, in the case of the likilimba system, it is between individuals that labor is exchanged. In the closing part of this essay, I argue that, with the development of the market economy, these non-monetary systems of reciprocal labor exchange will become more needed, rather than disappear, by demonstrating the recent revival of yui in Japanese society.