New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 231

new internationalist
issue 231 - May 1992

JAPAN - THE FACTS

The Rise of Oriental Capitalism
Japan's remarkable success is now a central fact of global economic life.
But what has the new prosperity meant for the quality of everyday life for
Japanese people? And what does it mean for the rest of the world?

Daily Life
Despite growing affluence and disposable income the quality of life for many Japanese remains poor and opportunities limited.

. Some 25% of Japanese marriages are still arranged. Women are expected to be married by age 25 and men by age 27. A middle-class wedding can cost up to $50,000. Only 50% of women return to work after they are married.6

. Over one-third of Japanese are concentrated on just 1% of the total land8. In Tokyo land prices are 80% of housing prices. Between 1955 and 1985 land values inflated by an astounding 7,800%. This makes the cost of housing for most urban Japanese extremely high.1

. Tokyo is twice as expensive to live in as New York and has one-fifteenth the park space of London. Japan has 900 public libraries compared to 5,630 in the UK and 8,500 in the US.1

. One-third of the world's tuna and two-fifths of its shrimp pass through Japanese stomachs.7

 

Economic Miracle
The Japanese make up 2.6% of the world's population who live on 0.1 % of its inhabitable area yet produce 10 per cent of world economic production. They are quickly becoming the world's dominant economic power.1

[image, unknown]

. The Tokyo stock exchange now equals the total size of the New York, Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Toronto stock exchanges combined.3

. Land inflation in Japan has reached the point where the market value of all Japanese land is double that of all US land even though US is 25 times as large.1

. Japan has a vibrant domestic economy. Less than 15% of Japanese GNP is exported compared to 29% in the UK.1

 

Out in Front
The Japanese are setting the pace in the global growth race whether it is trade surpluses, market share of products sold, or personal income.

[image, unknown]

 

Work and Leisure1,6
The Japanese workplace is curious mixture of workaholism and efficiency. But long hours are becoming a source of discontent.

[image, unknown]

. The average Japanese works between 200 and 500 hours per year more than workers in the rest of the industrial world. Fewer than 20% of full-time workers get two-day weekends.

. Ford has two-thirds more workers and produces only half the cars of Toyota.

. Company presidents' salaries are only 7 times those of new recruits as opposed to 30 to 50 times in the US.

. Women's salaries are only 52% of those of men. But there are 28,000 women who are company presidents.

 

Yen Power
Japanese success means increasing economic muscle outside the country. Japan is quickly becoming both the lender and donor of first resort. Japanese financial institutions are now responsible for a third of all intemational credit. A single Japanese company, Nomura, was responsible for financing a third of the gigantic US national debt.8

[image, unknown]

1 Peter Tasker, Inside Japan, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987.
2 World Development Report 1991, World Bank, Washington.
3 Gavin McCormack, Australian Outlook, August 1989.
4 In These Times, 12 January 1992.
5 Human Development Report 1991, UNDP, New York.
6 Harel van Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power, Macmillan, 1989.
7 Gavin McCormack, New Left Review, No 188.
8 Gavin McCormack, Australian Quarterly, August 1989.
9 Kevin Phillips, The Politics of Rich and Poor, Random House, 1990.
10 Yen for Development, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 1991.

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