Over a period of 50 years, Japan has lifted herself out of the ruins of war, achieved previously unheard of economic development, and rapidly raised her people’s standard of living. However, the realization of economic affluence was followed by the bursting of the economic bubble, and now there is a tangible unease about Japan’s economic future, fueled by low economic growth and fundamental change in Japan’s employment traditions. Many also feel that Japan’s younger generation, which has grown up in a cocoon of affluence, does not have the sense of order, diligence, or social outlook necessary to maintain that affluence. At the same time, many Japanese believe that after 50 years of intense effort, they still do not enjoy an appropriate degree of affluence. Thus, there is a vague dissatisfaction amongst the Japanese people that, despite all the undeniable economic success, their lifestyles have still to enjoy the fruits of that success.
The principal causes of this dissatisfaction or unease can be grouped into three broad categories. First, a sense of affluence remains absent in such areas as long working hours, price differentials between Japan and other countries, and the insufficient provision of housing and other social infrastructure.
Second, there is a discrepancy between the desires of a generation of Japanese enjoying a new economic affluence and what the social systems established in a non-affluent Japan are capable of providing.
Third, a sense of affluence may also be absent because, in the post-war period, people’s behaviour and values have changed substantially amidst a process of rapid social change, such that they have no reliable measure by which to judge their own lifestyles. Even if Japan as a whole has become much more affluent, this does not mean that individuals have become relatively more affluent than those around them.
If affluence gives birth not to a rich diversity of value preferences and tolerance, but to a pointless, self-perpetuating competition in both consumption and production, then the result may be an affluent but dissatisfied population.
In this White Paper our analysis proceeds with these issues in mind. However, with respect to the first category above, recent editions of the “White Paper on the Japanese Economy” have dealt with issues like international price differentials in depth, and this “White Paper on the Natonal Lifestyle” will limit itself to a description of the current economic issues, and concentrate instead on the second and third categories.
Part I will delineate what Japan has and has not achieved in 50 post war years in the workplace, in the family and in society as a whole. With regard to those areas where affluence is not evident, we shall consider what is necessary in order to achieve, share, and preserve that affluence for future generations.
Part II will overview developments in Japan’s economy in FY1994 as they relate to the household behaviour, in addition to analysing the recent “price collapse” and diversification in consumption behaviour.
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