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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, personal security, and environmental quality. It is below the average in terms of housing, civic engagement, subjective well-being, social connections, work-life balance and health status. These rankings are based on available selected data.

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 28 641 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 30 563 a year. 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, 74% of people aged 15 to 64 in Japan have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 67%. Some 82% of men are in paid work, compared with 66% 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 529 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 486. Although girls outperformed boys in many OECD countries, in Japan boys scored 2 point higher than girls on average. 

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Japan is 84 years, four years higher than the OECD average of 80 years, and one of the highest in the OECD. Life expectancy for women is 87 years, compared with 81 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 13.8 micrograms per cubic meter, slightly lower than the OECD average of 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. Japan does better in terms of water quality, as 86% 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 90% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, broadly in line with the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 53% during recent elections; lower than the OECD average of 69%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 53% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 49%, narrower than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points.

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 on average, lower than the OECD average of 6.5.

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

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OECD Economic Surveys Japan 2017

This 2017 OECD Economic Survey of Japan examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. The special chapters cover productivity for inclusive growth and fiscal sustainability.

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