Japan - Poverty and wealth

Japan Poverty And Wealth 1624
Photo by: Pathathai Chungyam

Since the end of World War II, Japan has developed a highly efficient infrastructure capable of meeting the essential needs of its population in various services. This capability ensures the availability of safe water, sanitation, and health services to all citizens in urban and rural areas alike.

Japan spends a significant amount of its GDP on a modern and efficient health-care service. Spending equaled 7.3 percent of GDP in 1997, about half the level in the United States. The health insurance system introduced in 1961 ensures the availability of health-care services to everyone. Coverage is provided by 2 major insurers: the national health insurance scheme (NHIS) and the employee health insurance scheme (EHIS). Since all

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Japan 23,296 27,672 31,588 38,713 42,081
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
China 138 168 261 349 727
South Korea 2,894 3,766 5,190 7,967 11,123
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Japanese must take part in a public or a semi-public heath insurance plan, there are few private insurance plans. Depending on the case, the insurance programs cover 70 to 80 percent of the cost services, while the insured covers the rest. The health-care system has contributed to Japan's achievement of the world's highest life expectancy, which was 80 years in 1998.

Japan also has one of the world's highest literacy rates, 99 percent. The Japanese government provides free public schooling for 6 years of primary school and 3 years of junior-high school. In 2000, about 95.9 percent of eligible students attended 3-year senior-high schools, a huge increase from 1960 when only 57.7 percent of the students did so. In 1999, almost 90 percent of the Japanese population completed high school. The quality of the schooling up to grade 12 is very high. The schooling system has been given credit for training an educated and highly disciplined workforce. In 1998, about 45 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 22 participated in post-secondary education.

Japan is an affluent society where extreme poverty does not exist, although extreme wealth does. High wages and salaries guarantee high living standards, reflected in the high percentage of ownership of electronic devices and home appliances, for instance. In 1999, a color TV, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and re-

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Japan
Lowest 10% 4.8
Lowest 20% 10.6
Second 20% 14.2
Third 20% 17.6
Fourth 20% 22.0
Highest 20% 35.7
Highest 10% 21.7
Survey year: 1993
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Japan 12 7 7 2 22 13 37
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
China N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
South Korea 18 3 7 5 14 6 48
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

frigerator were found in 98 percent of Japan's households. The standard of living has fallen somewhat due to rising unemployment and reductions in wages, salaries, and bonuses in the 1990s. Heavy government spending on Japan's social safety net, including its unemployment and welfare benefits, prevents extreme poverty. Such spending accounted for $141 billion in 1999, equal to 8.4 percent of GDP.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 14, 2011 @ 7:07 am
I've heard from friend, the salary of a janitor in Japan amounts to 4,000 dollars? and the companies or the management don't let an employed janitor to feel that they are just cleaners. They are treated with dignity and respect.. Isn't it amazing? That is one of the secret why Japan is rich.
Joseph Mitchener
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 27, 2017 @ 4:16 pm
Thanks for this. But I was looking for a graph of how Japan's Wealth is distributed. ie, What percent of the nation's wealth is held by the richest percentile, by the 50th percentile, etc. Is such data available. PS. Sure wish the USA had as equitable a distribution of income as does Japan.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: