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indicator value unit
Population 127.2 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, housing, personal security, and environmental quality. It is below the average in terms of 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 29 798 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 33 604  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, 75% of people aged 15 to 64 in Japan have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 68%. Some 83% of men are in paid work, compared with 67% of women. In Japan, the percentage of employees working very long hours is higher than the OECD average of 11%.

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. In Japan, the percentage of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, is above the OECD average of 78%.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 87% 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, 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 68%. 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%, a much 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.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Japan

OECD’s periodic surveys of the Japanese economy. Each edition surveys the major challenges faced by the country, evaluates the short-term outlook, and makes specific policy recommendations. Special chapters take a more detailed look at specific challenges. Extensive statistical information is included in charts and graphs.

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Japan in Detail