Research into public attitudes to necessities in Japan finds that the items and activities regarded as necessary tend to focus on food, belongings, household good and financial matters (such as paying bills) rather than social activities (such as participating in hobbies) and obligations (such as giving gifts to family and friends). The research also suggests that the Japanesse public have a more restrictive notion of necessities than the UK and other rich, developed countries (see Comparative Research below).
The 2011 'Perceptions of Necessities' survey
In 2011 the National Institute of Population and Social conducted a 'Perceptions of necessities' survey. It asked about 67 items and activities for adults and 30 children's items and activities. The items and activities were developed from a series of focus groups and an earlier 'Perceptions of necessities' survey in 2003. Respondents were interviewed by a postal survey (sample size 3,000, responses 1,518). The respondents were asked:
This question is about a standard of living for all people in Japan today. In order to live a modern life, what items do you think are necessary and should be able to be acquired by everybody? This question is about a standard of living for all people in Japan today. In order to live a modern life, what items do you think are necessary and should be able to be acquired by everybody?
The responses available were: 'Definitely necessary', 'Desirable but not necessary', 'Not necessary'.
The table below shows for each item and activity for adults the percentage thinking the item is 'definitely necessary' in order 'to live a modern life in Japan'. It is important to note that the survey was conducted during July 2011, just four months after the Great East Japan Earthquake which killed nearly 20,000 people. It is quite possible that a disaster of this magnitude, whose effects are still being felt, may have influenced people’s perceptions of life’s necessities temporarily and/or even permanently. The table can be sorted by clicking the top of a column.
Attitudes to necessities for adults, Japan, 2011
Source: Presentation by Aya Abe (download below)
Twenty eight of the 67 items and activities for adults were seen as necessary by over 50% of respondents. The items with the highest percentages covered medical needs, food and a range of household goods and facilties. A range of items had gained more than 10% in the percentage thinking the item necessary compared to 2003, including'being able to go to family and friend's weddings/funerals', 'being able to save every month' and 'internet access'. The survey also found widespread agreement between different social groups.
Details of the findings of the survey were presented by Aya Abe fomr the Naitonal Institute of Poplulation and Social Securutty Research to a seminar on 'Public Perceptions of necessities in Japan and the UK' in Tokyo in 2015. Download this presentation below.
A presentation on 'Poverty Measurement in Japan' reporting the results of the 2003 survey was made by Abe Aya at the Second Townsend Conference on International PovertyThis presentation reports the findings of a 2003 survey (sample 1,350) that asked respondents which of a list of 28 items covering various aspects of life (both material and social) they thought were ‘necessary’ to live normally in Japan.
Further details can be found in:
'Social exclusion and earlier disadvantages: an empirical study of poverty and social exclusion in Japan' (pdf), Abe Aya, Social Science Japan Journal , Vol 13, No 1, 2010. In this paper Abe Aya provides one of the first attempts in Japan to define and measure poverty and social exclusion in that country.
Details of the findings of this survey and comparisons with perceptions of necessities in the UK can be found in the Social Policy and Society journals themed section on 'Comparative Persepectives on Poverty and Inequality: Japan and the United Kingdom'.The comparative research found that the Japanese public tends to have a more restrictive notion of what a minimum standard of living should encompass than in the UK, even after controlling for key variables. Nevertheless, there was also evidence of a consensus on the majority of adult items in terms of whether they constituted necessities or not. See:
Social Policy and Society Journal
See also, UNICEF's report on child well being in Japan which looks at 5 different dimension of well-being including material deprivation. 'Child well-being in rich coutnries - comparing Japan', Aya Abe and Junko Takezawa, UNICEF, 2013.