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indicator value unit
Population 127.3 mil.
Visitors per year 8.4 mil.
Renewable energy 4.2 %

How’s Life?

Japan performs well in some measures of well-being in the Better Life Index. Japan ranks at the top in personal security. It ranks above the OECD average in income and wealth, education and skills, jobs and earnings, but below the average in terms of housing, civic engagement, subjective well-being, work-life balance and health status.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Japan, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 26 111 a year, more than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than six times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Japan have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 81% of men are in paid work, compared with 62% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. Japan is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 540 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is much higher than the OECD average of 497, making Japan one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. Although girls outperformed boys in many OECD countries, in Japan boys scored 2 points higher than girls on average. 

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Japan is almost 83 years, three years higher than the OECD average of 80 years, and one of the highest in the OECD. Life expectancy for women is 86 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 24.1 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Japan does better in terms of water quality, as 85% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, compared with an OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Japan, where 89% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, slightly higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 53% during recent elections; below the OECD average of 68%. There is no difference in voting levels across society; voter turnout is the same for the top 20% of the population and the bottom 20%, and suggests there is broad social inclusion in Japan’s democratic institutions.

In general; the Japanese are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, the Japanese gave it a 5.9 grade, lower than the OECD average of 6.6.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys Japan 2015

This 2015 OECD Economic Survey of Japan examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover enhancing innovation and dynamism; and reducing government debt.

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Japan in Detail