Waning Middle-Class Identification and Changing Japanese Attitudes towards Society

From the ISSP Survey on Social Inequality: Survey Results in Japan

Published: May 1, 2020

As a member of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute conducted an ISSP survey on “social inequality,” whose aim was to explore the public awareness of various types of disparities in each society. This paper reports the results of the survey held in Japan in December 2019, centering on a time-series comparison with the results from the 1999 and the 2009 surveys on the same theme.

Against the background of an increase in low-income population, the 2019 survey finds more people thinking “differences in income in Japan are too large” than twenty years ago. There were also an increase in those feeling Japan’s “social structure” was that more lower-class population than the middle-class, and likewise, in terms of “class identification,” those finding themselves belonging to social classes below the middle increased.

Meanwhile, with regard to the characteristics of Japanese society, there are decreases in those finding Japan a society where “having a good education is important for getting ahead in life” and where “money talks” and increases in those thinking “people care about the nature and the environment,” “people value human relationships,” and “efforts are justly rewarded.” Those agreeing with the latter three statements (“nature and the environment,” “human relationship” and “efforts”) remarkably increased among the youth, which shows the change in young people’s awareness is largely impacting the change in the entire Japanese population’s attitudes towards society.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research


in Japanese