On 20 July, 2006, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report entitled Economic Survey of Japan 2006, which states that Japan is finally coming out of recession in the aftermath of the collapse of the asset price bubble in the early 1990s. According to the report, the resurgent trend is projected to continue through 2007.
On the other hand, the report points to the fact that income inequality among the working-age population has risen in recent years and that the rate of relative poverty in Japan is one of the highest among the OECD member states. While the report attributes this trend partly to population ageing, increasing dualism in the labour market is identified as the key factor: the proportion of non-regular workers has risen from 19% of employees to over 30% during this decade, and part-time workers earn on average only 40% as much as full-time workers. The dualism is likely to become entrenched, according to the report, because only a small proportion of non-regular workers have become regular workers.
In order to reduce inequality and poverty, the report recommends measures to alleviate labour market dualism, including through increasing the coverage of non-regular workers by social insurance and enhancing their employment prospects, as well as to increase the level of social security for low-income households. In particular, Japan has a higher poverty rate for single parents who work than for those who are not employed, which has boosted the child poverty rate to 14% in 2000, well above the OECD average. According to the report, it is essential to ensure that children in low-income households have adequate access to high-quality education to prevent poverty from being passed to future generations.
The Outline of the Basic Survey on People's Lives 2005, published by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on 28 June, also indicates that 56.2% of the households have a sense of financial difficulties and that the rate has risen in recent years.
· OECD, Economic Survey of Japan 2006 (English)
· The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, The Outline of the Basic Survey on People's Lives 2005 (Japanese)