|living (housing, urban environment, crime prevention)|
|purchasing power (income, expenditure, assets, consumer behaviour)|
|working life (salary, hours, conditions, employment opportunities)|
|child rearing (spending, education facilities and environment)|
|health (medical care, health insurance, welfare services)|
|leisure (paid vacation days, leisure facilities, spending on leisure)|
|learning (study/school hours, facilities, adult learning)|
|social mixing (marriage, social participation, internationalization)|
These eight indicators are qualified by feelings and evidence of:
|safety and reassurance (peace of mind)|
|fairness and equality|
In the living category, for example, safety and reassurance are measured by such considerations as mortgage repayment ratios, the proximity to homes of medical facilities and the number of traffic accidents. Fairness and equality are measured by the number of years' salary needed to buy a home, differences in land costs, and so on. Freedom is measured by such considerations as the number of housing starts for family home rentals. Comfort is gauged by the number of hours in a day a home receives sunlight, the number of footpaths and cycle lanes in urban areas, the area of park space per capita, and the number of homes linked to water-work facilities, among other considerations.
Generally, the 1993 indicators show a steady increase in quality of life. In the 11 years to 1991, there was a steep rise in the purchasing power, health and learning indicators, while living and leisure registered slight rises and falls while on a general upward progression (leisure suffered a small drop between 1990 and 1991). The working life indicator crawled sideways until 1987 then rose quite sharply. The child-rearing indicator shows a steady rise, and the indicator for social intercourse rose sharply between 1982 and 1985, then embarked on a very gentle continuation upwards. Following are highlights from the PLI report.
Health shows the largest rise among all categories during the last 11 years. While an increase in sickness and death from adult diseases had a negative impact on the index, this was offset by the increase in medical and nursing facilities and services. Japan's world-leading longevity is proof of fine health performance.Graph 2: People's Life Indicators, 1980-1991
The living indicator shows a significant rise from 1987 through to 1991, with an increase in home-owned living space as well as park space per person, more homes on sewerage and water-supply systems, and more footpaths. These benefits offset a drop in rental living space per person, an increase in crime and traffic accidents and other negative factors.
Working life, after showing no progress between 1980 and 1986, embarked on a modest rise to 1989 and increased at a healthy pace to 1991. This was accomplished by an increase in net salaries, a decrease in accidents and sickness on the job, and the general shift to a two-day weekend. On the down side, overtime increased, particularly for women, and there were more transferred employees living away from their families. Between 1990 and 1991, the reduction in working hours and the further entrenchment of the five-day week, along with later retirement and increased mid-career employment, contributed to a particularly healthy rise in the working life index.
Comfort shows the steepest rise in the four qualitative indexes. The comfort index has risen in a sharp line from 1980 to 1991, as a result of positive factors in the child rearing, learning, health and living categories. This is particularly so in the areas of increased space in owned homes, more homes linked to sewerage and water-work systems, and an increase in museums and other cultural facilities.
The safety and reassurance (peace of mind) category has shown a poor performance during the 11 years, but rose slightly in 1990 and again in 1991. This was thanks mostly to the positive factors in the health and consumption categories (increased medical facilities; higher real income). Negative factors in the living, learning and social intercourse categories weighed the indicator down.
Despite the generally good news above, the PLI report revealed that fairness and equality dropped again in 1991, after rising nicely from 1980 to 1985 then plunging in 1986. These two conditions are traditionally treasured by a population which in the past has overwhelmingly classified itself as middle class. Contributing factors in the late 1980s included inequalities in real estate ownership as inflated land prices put purchases beyond the reach of more people. The rise in private spending over corporate expense-account spending (which means those without expense accounts must spend their own money), and in hiring opportunities were two important factors both in the late 1980s and in 1991.
A deterioration in financial circumstances for a significant number of people was highlighted in February 1993 in an annual nationwide poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest national daily newspaper. Of the 2,151 respondents, 36.9% replied that financially they were "slightly worse off" or "much worse off" than the year before. This proportion rose by 11 percentage points over 1992, and was the highest increase since February 1987, when a recession caused by the sharp rise in yen value caused pessimism. On the other hand, most respondents - 57.6% - indicated that they had suffered no change in financial circumstances over the past year.
In the Yomiuri poll, the greatest financial burdens on the family budget were cited as taxes, including income tax, resident tax and fixed property tax (39.2%); daily living expenses, including food and other necessities (28.7%); social security payments, that is, health insurance and national pension payments (27%); entertainment expenses (23.7%); land or housing rent, and mortgages (22.9%); and education costs (22.5%).
Japan's aging society is exacerbating any financial strain. Social welfare costs are increasing with the greater number of elderly persons, placing a heavier burden on a shrinking portion of the population. The Public Opinion Survey on the Aging Society, conducted by the Prime Minister's Office in 1991 and published in May 1992, reveals that most people are concerned about the cost of medical fees and the medical system itself. They are also concerned about the level of care for the aged, job security for senior citizens who want to work past retirement, and the challenge of providing an environment amenable to the elderly.
In the PLI's analysis of Japan's 47 prefectures, Tokyo received a mixed rating: worst for fairness and equality, reasonable for safety and peace of mind, quite well for comfort, and top for freedom. It came second for consumption, leisure and learning, and third for work - a fitting rating for a crowded and high-energy capital city.
Tokyo polled as the least favourite prefecture by more than half the 13,000 Japanese polled at housing fairs throughout the country in 1992 by the National Association for Real Estate Transaction Guaranty. Reasons included "bad natural environment," "high price of land and housing," "loud noise and pollution," and "high cost of living."
It is not surprising, therefore, that 1993 brought an increase in reports of Tokyo born-and-breds fleeing, or expressing the desire to flee, the capital for a better lifestyle in other prefectures. This has been dubbed the I-turn - or ai-taan - phenomenon, in contrast to the better known U-turn - or yuu-taan - phenomenon displayed by people choosing to return to outlying prefectures after some years' residence in the capital. Out-of-town university students increasingly are returning home to seek work after graduation, particularly since employment has become tougher in Japan's large corporations centred in Tokyo.
Some prefectures are offering incentives to returnees, such as low-interest mortgages, and are distributing glossy pamphlets advertising their advantages and relatively idyllic lifestyle. There is even a magazine to cater for the U- and I-turners. In addition, some companies are covering the rather high cost of commuting by Japan's fast long-distance Shinkansen trains so that employees and their families can enjoy a better quality of life far from Tokyo.