One area where Japan is lagging behind other
developed industrialized countries is gender equality,
despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits gender
discrimination. The position of women is traditionally
weak and business and high social positions are
dominated by men. In the family, women are usually
financially dependent on the man, and the pay gap
between men and women is greater than in comparable
countries. However, slowly this is changing.
Traditionally, women have often become housewives
when they get married. In households, wives have usually
taken care of the household cash register, given their
spouse weekly money and devoted a lot of time to
children and the older generation. It is also the women
who managed and placed much of the household savings in
Japan. However, ingrained gender roles are slowly
changing, as is the attitude towards marriage.
Countryaah Official Site:
Official statistics for population in Japan, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
The fact that more and more women are working or
obtaining higher education has affected marriages. The
proportion of unmarried women in their 20-30s is
increasing, and the average age of both men and women
entering marriage has risen. Many are also waiting to
have children, and the women are on average just over 30
when the first child is born. A major problem is also
the difficulty in finding childcare that can be combined
with a job.
The state's welfare system was not very developed in
the past. Many had to rely on private health and pension
insurance. Today, the social insurance system is
expanded and includes both compulsory health insurance
and national pension, child allowance, unemployment
insurance and occupational injury insurance. The general
insurance is supplemented by private, often more
generous health insurance at the workplace. All citizens
are insured through one of these schemes.
Since 1985, all citizens have been covered by a
general pension system with retirement pension at the
age of 65. The state accounts for one third of the basic
pension and the rest comes from premiums paid by the
retired self. Often, companies provide more favorable
pension insurance for their employees for retirement
already at 60 years. The national pensions paid are on
average 40 percent of the final salary. In recent
years, society's pension costs have risen sharply as the
proportion of elderly people in the population has
The country's rapid economic development has greatly
affected old family patterns. In the past, three or more
generations often lived together in families where
parents had unquestioned authority. A married woman was
expected to loyally obey her husband and in-laws. With
new lifestyles, much of this has changed. Nuclear
families with only children and parents or childless
couples have become increasingly common, which has
increased the number of households.
Another change is that child birth has declined,
which has caused population growth to stop. On average,
only one child is born per woman in Japan. One
consequence of the ever-increasing average life
expectancy and the disappearance of the large family is
that the old people living alone are increasing.
The transformation of society and, in recent years,
tighter economics have created social tensions with
sometimes tragic consequences. The number of suicides
has dropped in recent years but is still high. Many of
them are considered to be rooted in financial problems
or difficulties in meeting new, tough demands in a
changing society. At the same time, sociologists say
that more and more Japanese people, both men and women,
are dissatisfied with how old gender roles still shape
The standard of living in Japan is high and nine out
of ten Japanese people see themselves as middle class.
Disposable income is still large and taxes are low.
While the standard of living has risen sharply in just a
few decades, the improvements are relatively evenly
distributed. The difference between highest and lowest
wages is smaller in Japan than in any of the world's
leading industrialized countries - at least on paper.
On the minus side there is the housing shortage. The
dream of owning a house is being broken for most of the
high house and land prices. In the rental market,
apartments are usually small and rents are high.
Problems finding a home near the workplace are forcing
many Japanese to make long, tiring daily commuter trips.
FACTS - SOCIAL CONDITIONS
2 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean
98.9 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to
99.9 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a
percentage of GDP
10.9 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person
US $ 4,233 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament
10 percent (2018)
Nuclear power plan should be reviewed
The new government says it will review the plan for a
gradual decommissioning of nuclear power proposed by the
previous government. The Minister of Industry says that
the now shut down reactors will be put back into
operation if the Nuclear Authority considers them safe.
Prime Minister Abe has promised bold measures to boost
the Japanese economy.
The LDP government is approved
On December 26, Parliament approves the new LDP
government led by Shinzo Abe. Another former Prime
Minister, Taro Aso (2008-2009), becomes Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of Finance. Several other Abe's
close associates receive heavy ministerial posts.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is appointed Minister of
LDP wins election to the lower house
LDP wins a landslide victory in the House of Commons
election on December 16. The party gets 294 seats and
its alliance partner New Komeito gets
31 seats. For the DPJ government, things are going much
worse; it only manages to retain 57 of its 230 seats in
the last election.
Statistics show a recession
Economic statistics show that the economy has
re-entered a recession with shrinking growth during the
year. The figures are released just a week before the
Stimulus packages are approved
A stimulus package of measures aimed primarily at
creating new job opportunities and providing support to
small businesses is pushed through in Parliament.
Ozawa is acquitted
Ichiro Ozawa is acquitted by a Tokyo appeals court
from charges of violating campaign finance laws.
Parliamentary elections are announced
Prime Minister Noda announces parliamentary elections
LDP leaders criticize China
New LDP leader Shinzo Abe criticizes the Chinese
regime for its human rights violations in Tibet.
Minister of Justice resigns
Minister of Justice Keishu Tanaka resigns only after
a couple of weeks as Minister of Justice, officially due
to failing health, but it has also been discovered that
he has been in contact with crime syndicates many years
Party leaders visit temples
LDP leader Shinzo Abe visits the Yasukuni Temple.
Majority votes for Noda
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda receives a majority of
the votes in a DPJ party leadership vote.
LDP chooses new leader
On September 26, opposition party LDP elected Shinzo
Abe as its new leader. Abe was prime minister in
2006-2007 and is known as one of the more nationalist
politicians in the party.
Conflict over archipelago escalates
The infected conflict with China over the Senkaku
archipelago (in China called Diaoyu), which received a
new launch in August, escalates. After the Japanese
government announced that it will buy three islands from
a private Japanese owner, China responds by sending
military ships to the archipelago and violent
anti-Japanese demonstrations are held in Chinese cities.
Japanese companies such as Canon and Panasonic shut down
factories due to the unrest. There is concern about the
economic impact the protests could have on Japanese
companies and investors in China.
Conversation with North Korea
At the end of the month, Japanese government
officials will meet representatives from North Korea in
the first talks in four years.
Chinese are arrested
In mid-August, 14 Chinese from Hong Kong, who joined
the disputed archipelago Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese)
(see Foreign Policy and Defense), are arrested for
setting up a Chinese flag there.
Ambassador is called home
The government calls the ambassador to South Korea in
protest against the South Korean president visiting the
island group Dokdo (called Takeshima in Japan), which is
controlled by South Korea but also claims by Japan.
Nuclear accident could have been prevented
A parliamentary inquiry states that the disaster at
the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011 was
caused and exacerbated by the human factor and cannot be
considered merely a natural disaster. The nuclear
accident could and should have been prevented and its
effects could have been minimized through more effective
response from the authorities and the company Tepco,
which was responsible for the power plant's operation,
explains the investigation.
Defenders form a new party
A faction of 49 MPs (37 from the lower house, 12 from
the upper house) leaves the ruling DPJ. Even if the
party retains its majority in the lower house, the
drop-off will weaken DPJ's influence. The leader of the
dropped faction is Ichiro Ozawa, who a week later forms
his own party. The reason for the dropout is stated to
be the faction's resistance to an increase in VAT. The
new party gets the name People's Life comes
first (Kokumin no seikatsu ga daiichi) and
becomes the third largest in Parliament's lower house.
Ozawa says he wants to work to reduce Japan's dependence
on nuclear power.
Two reactors at the Ohi nuclear power plant north of
Kyoto are launched, the first restart of nuclear power
since the disaster in 2011. Demonstrations against
nuclear power are held near the power plant.
Proposed VAT is approved
In early June, Prime Minister Noda replaces five
government ministers in an attempt to get the
opposition's support for a VAT increase. At the end of
the month, the lower house approves the government's
proposal to increase VAT from 5 percent to 10 percent
within three years.
The last nuclear reactor is closed
Authorities are closing the last reactor at the
Tomari nuclear plant at Hokkaido for routine inspection
and maintenance. As a result, all nuclear reactors in
Japan are at a standstill.
Agreement around Okinawa
The government concludes an agreement with the United
States on the much-debated Okinawa issue (see Foreign
Policy and Defense); Thousands of US Marines are to be
relocated from the island's air base.
At the end of the month, powerful politician Ichiro
Ozawa is cleared of charges of breaking political
Sentenced to death
Three sentenced to death are executed. These are the
first executions since 2010.
Trade deficit in 2011
Economic statistics for 2011 show that Japan had a
trade deficit for the first time in 30 years.