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9 Distinctive Trends in Japan Revealed by Analysis of the World Values Survey

Dentsu Institute (Executive Producer: Naoki Tani), an internal organization of Dentsu Group Inc. (Tokyo: 4324; President & CEO: Toshihiro Yamamoto; Head Office: Tokyo; Capital: 74,609.81 million yen), and the Ikeda Laboratory*(Professor: Ken’ichi Ikeda), a facility engaged in media and social psychology research at Doshisha University (location: Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture; President: Tomoko Ueki), with the collaboration of Dentsu Macromill Insight, Inc., have conducted their own international comparative analysis of results from the World Values Survey (WVS), a survey of a total of over 100 countries and societies. The analysis revealed 9 distinctive trends in Japan.

The WVS studies the values of individuals, with questions covering as many as 290 topics including views on politics, economy, labor, education, religion, and family. The WVS was first launched in 1981 and Dentsu Institute has participated since the 2nd wave in 1990. The most recent survey is the WVS’ 7th wave.

For the 7th wave, the WVS collaborated with the European Values Study (EVS) to create a joint data set, and survey fieldwork was conducted from 2017 to 2021. Dentsu Institute and Doshisha University have conducted cross-national comparative analysis of 77 countries for which results had been compiled as of September 2020, and have identified 9 distinctive trends in Japan. This release presents Japan’s results with reference to its rankings among respondent countries, and it is necessary to note that as the number of respondent countries may differ from question to question—due to the fact that the WVS and EVS do not use entirely identical questionnaires, and that there are also cases among non-European countries where questions have been customized for the particular country—the number of countries from among which the rankings could be compiled varies between 45 and 77.

Japan’s 9 Distinctive Trends as Revealed by Cross-national Comparison

  1. Work: Leisure time is prioritized. The importance of “work” is comparatively low.
  2. Gender: Level of acceptance of “homosexuality” is high, ranking just after those in Europe and other developed countries.
  3. Value of Freedom: The most importance is attached to “security,” followed by “freedom” then “equality.” Respondents feel they have a low level of “control” over their lives.
  4. Media: High trust in the mass media. Japan ranks 1st of 48 countries in terms of respondents who “obtain information daily” from a “daily newspaper” or “TV news.”
  5. Science and technology: 80% agreed that “because of science and technology, there will be more opportunities for the next generation.”
  6. Politics: Despite a high level of importance placed upon “politics,” political matters are not discussed. There is a tendency to expect the “government” to provide security but dislike “authority.”
  7. Environment vs. economy: Many people struggle to choose between “protecting the environment” and “economic growth.”
  8. Family: There is a tendency to trust “family” and consider it important, but a low sense of duty to provide long-term care for parents.
  9. Next generation: Emphasis is placed on children learning qualities such as “determination” and “imagination.”

The Survey Results: Summary and Key Findings

While attaching greater importance to “leisure time” over “work,” Japanese respondents do not tend to perceive “less importance placed on work in our lives” as positive. Despite high levels of interest in “politics,” political matters are not discussed. Respondents expect the “government” to provide security, but dislike “authority.” Many Japanese respondents replied “don’t know” when asked to choose between “protecting the environment” or “economic growth.” These results showed numerous such cases where responses appear at first glance contradictory or respondents tended to avoid clear choices when asked. Behind these conflicts are the effects of the fact that the world is changing dramatically.

One of those changes is the growing pace of birthrate decline and population aging, and the survey results indicate that in Japanese society there is a low sense of duty to provide long-term care for parents, despite “family” being regarded as important. While this may be due to the increasing provision of long-term care services, whether it will be possible to maintain such a social system is a highly pressing question for Japan.

There is a glimpse of a forward-thinking orientation among Japanese respondents in the qualities they wish to see in their children, who represent the next generation. Namely, respondents want their children to prioritize post-industrial values such as “imagination” over traditional or industrial values such as “hard work.” We believe that we need to continue to pursue research that draws on comparisons with other countries to follow how people make choices based on their awareness in order to build a desirable society, despite the contradictions and conflicts they face. As fieldwork for Japan and 66 of the 77 countries had been completed by 2019, it can be suggested that the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has had only limited effects on the results of this wave. However, aside from the effects of the pandemic, the world is in the midst of other significant changes, and it is for this very reason that such a long-term, worldwide attitude survey is useful for grasping such changes and envisioning the future. This is due to the close correlation between the shifts in people’s attitudes, values and behavior and the quality of society.

Click below for the news release.
9 Distinctive Trends in Japan Revealed by Analysis of the World Values Survey

* Ikeda Laboratory
Ken’ichi Ikeda Media Study Laboratory, Department of Media, Journalism and Communications, Faculty of Social Studies, Doshisha University
Representative: Professor Ken’ichi Ikeda
Research areas: Media communications, reconstruction of political social psychology, social-psychological study of social reality
URL: http://www.ikeken-lab.jp/english/

Contact regarding the WVS
Yamazaki, Nitto, Nakagawa and Kimura, Dentsu Institute
E-mail: d-ii@dentsu.co.jp
URL: https://institute.dentsu.com/en/

Text by Fumito Nitto



Fumito Nitto

Producer, Dentsu Institute

Born in Yamagata Prefecture. Joined Dentsu Institute in February 2020. Currently pursuing projects on the practical application of economic theory to society. Interested in the design of a social system utilizing fields such as mechanism design and behavioral economics with a focus on the relationship between peoples’ attitudes and changes in society.

Born in Yamagata Prefecture. Joined Dentsu Institute in February 2020. Currently pursuing projects on the practical application of economic theory to society. Interested in the design of a social system utilizing fields such as mechanism design and behavioral economics with a focus on the relationship between peoples’ attitudes and changes in society.