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Measurement of Poverty and Social Exclusion in Japan. Aya K. Abe National Institute of Population and Social Security Research Tokyo, Japan. Second Townsend Memorial Conference, Measuring Poverty : The State of Art, 22-23 January 2010. Poverty Rates of OECD countries(Mid 2000s).

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measurement of poverty and social exclusion in japan

Measurement of Poverty and Social Exclusion in Japan

Aya K.Abe

National Institute of Population and Social Security Research

Tokyo, Japan

Second Townsend Memorial Conference, Measuring Poverty : The State of Art, 22-23 January 2010

poverty rates of oecd countries mid 2000s
Poverty Rates of OECD countries(Mid 2000s)

Poverty Rates of OECVD Countries (Mid 2000s) : Income measure

Data: OECD(2008) Growing Unequal?

political context
Political Context
  • Upto 2008 :Denial stage

Oct. 2009: Announcement of Relative Poverty Rate

  • Jan. 18, 2011:
    • Social Inclusion Special Team established under Prime Minister’s Office
from research community
From Research community
  • Up to 2000’s: some qualitative research on special risk groups, such as homeless population, single-mothers, etc.
  • From 2000’s: Some attempts to calculate extent of poverty among general population using large surveys (mostly income) (Abe 2005, Komamura 2005, etc.)
brief introduction of my work
BriefIntroduction of my work
  • 2003 Necessities Survey (n=1350)
    • Asking general public what is “necessary”
  • 2003 Social Living Survey (n=1520)
    • Using above items regarded “necessary”, asked who are deprived of those items + some social network questions
  • 2006 Living Conditions Survey (n=584)
    • Asked Deprivation and social exclusion; more emphasis on social exclusion
    • Sample limited to one geographical area near Tokyo
  • 2008 Social Living Survey (n=1021)
    • 2003 and 2006 survey questions combined, covered all areas of Japan
  • 2008 Necessities Survey for Children
methodology defining essentials and identifying who is deprived
Methodology:Defining Essentials and Identifying Who is Deprived

Is it essential?

Do you have it?





Do not want it

Cannot afford it

data the 2003 necessities survey
DataThe 2003 Necessities Survey
  • Sample of 2000 adults (20 years +), randomly chosen from residents’ register all over Japan
  • 1350 responses (response rate = 67.5%)
  • For 28 items, asked respondents whether they thought it is “necessary” to live normally in Japan
those who think the item is essential
% those who think the item is essential

* UK question: “Toys (e.g. dolls, teddies)

** Australia : Community Understanding of Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey 2006 in Saunders et al. (2007)

Data: Japan Child Necessity Survey 2008 in Abe (2008), UK Office for National Statistics Omnibus Survey 1999, in Gordon et al. (2000)

supporting items 1 st vs 5 th quintile income




Family Own Toilet


Family Trip

% supporting items: 1st vs. 5th quintile (income)

% saying “Definitely required”: 1st quintile vs. 5th quintile

5th quintile (richest)

1st quintile (poorest)

supporting items by education
% supporting items: by education

% saying “Definitely required”: College grads vs. Mandatory education only


College or above (12 + )






Neighborhood clubs

Junior high school (9 yrs of education)

supporting items women vs men
% supporting items: Women vs. Men

% saying “Definitely required”:

men vs. women


Separate bedroom




Video player


supporting items by location
% supporting items: by location

% saying “Definitely required”: those living in village vs. those living in large cities

Living in Village



Multiple bedrooms

Neighborhood clubs

Family’s own bathroom

Family trip


Living in Largest 13 cities

supporting items by age
% supporting items: by Age

% saying “Definitely required”: Above 70 years old vs. Below 30 years old



Above 70 years old


Neighborhood clubs

Video pl.



Below 30 years old

data 2003 social living survey
Data2003 Social Living Survey
  • Sample of 2000 adults (20 years +), randomly chosen from residents’ register all over Japan
  • 1520 responses (response rate = %)
comparison of japan australia deprivation patterns
Comparison of Japan-Australia Deprivation patterns

Why Deprivation approach?

  • Assumption that most households consist of nuclear families- Not the case in Japan -> raises questions re: equivalence adjustment
  • Presence of multi-generational hh
  • Deprivation approach: direct measurement of living standard, not relying on assumptions on resource sharing within families

Slides 25-XX: Saunders, Peter & Abe, Aya. 2009. “Poverty and Deprivation in Young and Old: A Comparative Study of Australia and Japan.” Poverty and Public Policy, Vol.2, Iss.1, Article 5 (2010).

comparison of japan australia deprivation patterns1
Comparison of Japan-Australia Deprivation patterns
  • Australia

Community Understanding of Poverty and Social Exclusion (CUPSE) survey, 2006, Social Policy Research Centre (Saunders, Naidoo and Griffiths, 2007).


  • Japan

The Social Living Survey, 2003, NIPSSR (Abe 2006)


  • Do we use the same list of items?

-> how do we account for differences in what is considered “necessary”?

  • Do we use the items selected using the same methodology?
  • What UNIT of comparison do we use?
comparison by household type similarities
Comparison by Household Type: Similarities
  • The number of items differs between JP and AUS, thus comparison of the absolute values of MDS or % of deprivation do not mean much. Instead, we need to look at patterns and ordering of family types within each country.
  • Similarities: Sole parents are the most deprived, followed by WA singles, WA with children. Least deprived are older couples, WA couples w/o children, older singles.
comparison of hh types remarkably similar
Comparison of hh types: remarkably similar

① Elderly single vs. WA single

 (AUS)     << 

 (JP)     <<      

② Elderly single vs. Elderly couple

 (AUS)     >> 

 (JP)     >>

③ WA single vs. WA couple w/o children

 (AUS)     >> 

 (JP)     >>

④ WA couple with children vs. WA couple w/o children

 (AUS)     > 

 (JP)     >>

⑤ WA couple with children vs. Lone parents

 (AUS)     <<

 (JP)     <<

overlap analysis
Overlap analysis
  • Le us define Low income & D<=2 to be consistent poverty
  • Aus: Consistent poverty is spread evenly at around 8% across all households (except sole parent hh).
  • Jp: the differential is very large across different household types; strikingly high in elderly singles & sold parents
conclusion aus jap comparison
Conclusion: Aus-Jap comparison
  • The ranking of poverty as measured by income differs between AUS-JP, but it is very similar if poverty is measured by deprivation.
    • Perhaps deprivation captures the “real” occurrence of poverty which is shared among countries?
  • From the overlap analysis, consistent poverty is more concentrated in Japan.
data the 2006 living conditions survey lcs
DataThe 2006 Living Conditions Survey (LCS)
  • Sample of 1600 adults (20 years +), randomly chosen from the residents’ registerin the southern Kawasaki City
    • Kawasaki is located between Tokyo and Yokohama, a part of industrial belt.
    • The southern part host many factories, and the city received influx of migrant laborers from rural sections of Japan.
  • 584 responses (response rate = 36.5%)
survey concept
Survey Concept
  • It should capture economic impoverishment not only by income, but also by material deprivation
  • It should capture how an individual is excluded (forced out) from various public constructs within a society, e.g. public schemes such as public pension and public health insurance, public services such as transportation and utilities, and public spaces such as libraries and sports facilities
  • It should capture exclusion from private spheres, e.g. lack of social relations (communication with others, meeting family obligations, doing activities with others) and social networks (support in need)
  • it should measure degree of individual’s involvement with society, e.g. social participation such as participation in local communities (neighborhood organizations, women’s clubs, PTA, etc.), civic activities (voting, political involvement, etc.), and personal communities (alumni clubs, sports and hobby circles, etc.)

These should enforced lack, rather than preference.

  • It should not only capture the enforced lack due to economic constraints, but also due to other constraints (health, family, work, social, etc.), and should be able to distinguish them
8 dimensions chosen
8 dimensions chosen
  • (lack of ) basic human needs,
  • material deprivation,
  • exclusion from systems and services,
  • (lack of) leisure and social participation,
  • inadequate housing,
  • (lack of ) social relation,
  • subjective poverty, and
  • income poverty

Almost all items were asked whether they “are wanted but cannot be obtained”, “not wanted (or not interested)” or “are obtained”.

  • For most of items, the survey also asks “the reason” why that item cannot be obtained : Economic, family, work, health, other reasons.
example social participation
Example: Social Participation
  • Very few indicate economic reasons for not being able to participate in social activities
  • Family/Work reasons is most often cited.
social exclusion indexes
Social Exclusion Indexes
  • Threshold for determining those who are "excluded" are decided by the author so that the exclusion rate will be 10 to 20% of the respondents.
example exclusion from systems
Example: Exclusion from Systems
  • Almost none stated economic reasons
  • “Access” is most often cited reason.
some key findings
Some Key findings


  • Men show higher rate of exclusion than women (lack of social participation and subjective poverty)
    • Same as PSE (social participation), but even more so.

(Age Group)

  • The income poverty shows an U shape curve, but it does not seem to translate directly to Lack of Basic Needs and Material Deprivation.
  • Those at 50’s seem to be at higher risk of many dimensions of S.E., e.g. Housing, Subjective poverty, Lack of Social Participation, Lack of Social Relations
    • Concurs with the fact that the suicide rate for men peaks at age 50-59. & 95% of homeless persons are men, a half of which are in their 50s.

(Household type)

  • Working age single-person households are by far the most at risk of social exclusion: Basic Needs, Material deprivation, housing deprivation, and lack of social participation

(Working Status)

  • Not being in the labor force, by itself, does not seem to indicate higher risk of social exclusion.
    • In fact, housewives and retired persons are at lower risk of social exclusion in some dimensions (subjective poverty, housing, social partipation)
  • However, not-being in the labor force for other reasons does indicate higher risk of social exclusion in 6 dimensions, including non-financial dimensions such as Exclusion from Systems and Lack of Social Relations. Involuntary detachment from the labor force is associated with social exclusion.

(Education Level)

  • Low education attainment (up to Junior high school = age 15, the compulsory education in Japan) is a strong link to social exclusion, not only for financial dimensions (income poverty, lack of basic needs, material deprivation, housing deprivation), but also for non-financial dimension s (exclusion from systems, lack of social relations).
  • High education attainment (college+) is associated with lower risk of social exclusion (systems, and basic needs)
social exclusion and earlier disadvantages
Social Exclusion and Earlier Disadvantages
  • Outside Japan, there are many studies linking childhood poverty to adult outcomes.
  • However, in Japan, there are very few studies connecting earlier life disadvantages and poverty and/or social exclusion, since there has not been much accumulation of panel data sets.
    • The studies using the Japanese Panel Survey of Consumers (JPSC) , the only long enough panel data set, has shown those who divert from “standard life course”, such as those who divorce and who do not marry, are more prone to becoming poor (Iwata & Nishizawa 2005). However, JPSC only covers women in a certain cohort.
this study
This Study
  • The survey was designed to capture major disadvantageous events (Independent variables): childhood poverty, divorce, prolonged illness or injury, involuntary lay-off.
  • Outcome (Dependent) variables include both financial poverty as well as social exclusion.
  • Control variables are : current income, sex, age class, single-elderly, current household type (has children, single-person household), current working status.
key findings
Key Findings


  • Having experience of a lay-off has positive and significant effect on current material deprivation, housing deprivation, lack of social participation, lack of social relations, exclusion from systems and subjective poverty, even after controlling for current income, age, sex, working status, and household type.


  • Having experience of divorce has positive and significant effect on basic needs and housing deprivation, even after controlling for current marital status (single-person hh).
key findings1
Key Findings

(Prolonged illness and injuries)

  • Having experience of prolonged illness and injuries (which caused one to be out of work or school for more than one month) has positive and significant effect on exclusion from systems.

(Childhood poverty)

  • Having experienced childhood poverty (living standard at age 15 was “very low” (=1) out of scale of 5) has positive and significant effect on current lack of basic needs, even after controlling for current income, age, household type and other disadvantages such as divorce and lay-offs.
    • The causal relationship is indicated.

(Control variables)

  • Income: Negative and significant in all but one (systems exclusion), including social relations and participation.
  • Gender: Men are + *** (social relations, subjective poverty)
  • Age: does not seem to have that strong of a effect
  • Work sattus: + ** (Exclusion from systems) ??
  • Sections of population most vulnerable to income poverty is not most vulnerable to social exclusion.
    • Possible “new” vulnerable group: men in their 50s.
  • Disadantages in earlier stages of life seem to exhort influences on some aspects of current social exclusion, even after controlling for current income, work status, household type, etc.
    • The catch-phrase of the former PM Abe “a society in which one can re-challenge” DOES NOT seem to hold.
  • Childhood poverty seems to have irrevocable continuing effect on adult well-being not only via education and occupation (and thus income), but by another path.