April 29, 2010

JAPAN: Aging not good for happiness as pension anxiety grows

TOKYO, Japan /  The Japan Times / Life in Japan / April 29, 2010

Kyodo News

The older Japanese people are the less happy they feel, due mainly to anxieties over the government-run pension and medical insurance systems, according to a recent survey.

The first government survey on people's perceptions of their degree of happiness found that only 44 percent of people aged 70 to 79 said they felt happy, compared with 61 percent of people in their 30s, the Cabinet Office said Tuesday.

By gender, only 48 percent of men said they felt happy, compared with 59 percent of women.

The results reveal high levels of anxiety regarding the employment situation and social conditions related to raising children, officials said.

The survey was conducted at the initiative of the Democratic Party of Japan-led government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, which has criticized previous governments led by the Liberal Democratic Party for overemphasizing economic growth.

Who will provide for them tomorrow?  Photo courtesy: BBC News

The survey was conducted in March and covered 4,000 people aged 15 to 79, of whom 2,900 responded.

Respondents were asked to grade their degree of happiness on a scale of one to 10. They were asked to give 10 points if they felt "very happy" and zero if they felt "very unhappy."

Among those aged 15 to 29, 55 percent gave seven points or more, as did 61 percent of those in their 30s. But the proportion fell to 55 percent among those in their 40s and 50s, 51 percent among those in their 60s and 44 percent among those in their 70s.

The average score for all respondents was 6.47.

The Cabinet Office compared the Japanese average with those revealed in European surveys conducted in 2008 that used the same point system.

The average was 8.4 in Denmark, 7.4 in Britain, 7.1 in France and 6.0 in Russia.

Denmark and other Scandinavian countries that provide high levels of social security benefits generally fared well while Russia and Eastern European countries generally did poorly.

Asked about policies to make them happier, 69.2 percent of the Japanese respondents said they would like the government to "devise a pension system that could make them feel more secure" after retirement.

The survey, in which respondents were allowed to submit multiple responses from a prepared list of answers, also found that 64.9 percent would like the government to create a society in which they can bring up children with a greater sense of security.  [rc]

(C) The Japan Times

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