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New Japanese prime minister inherits troubled economy

Story highlights

  • 66% of Japanese adults say it is a bad time to get a job
  • 47% say their local economy is deteriorating
  • 63% have no confidence in their national government

WASHINGTON, DC – If Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hopes to win voters before the elections later this month, he will have to convince them that he can cure his country’s pandemic-stricken economy. Before Kishida took office on Monday, 66% of Japanese adults said it was a bad time to find a job where they lived, and nearly half (47%) said economic conditions in their area were going to be deteriorated.

Line diagram. The perception of Japanese adults that it is a good time or a bad time to find a job where they live. Currently, 66% of the Japanese public say it is a bad time to get a job, while 18% say it is a good time. This compares with 46% who said it was a good time to find a job and 33% said 2019 was a bad time.

This latest data comes from Gallup’s World Poll, conducted from mid-June to mid-August, as Japan continued to struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan struggled with slow economic growth for years before the pandemic, and suffered some of the worst declines during that time.

The pessimism Japanese adults currently feel about their labor market reflects this situation and is a drastic departure from the cautious optimism they expressed in the years immediately prior to the pandemic. In 2019, almost half (46%) of Japanese adults said it was a good time to find a job where they lived, while 33% said it was a bad time. The Japanese public’s views of their local job markets have clouded over during the pandemic: 14% said it was a good time to find a job and 74% said it was a bad time in 2020.

The current 18% who now say it is a good time to get a job and the 66% who say it is a bad time are only a modest improvement and well below most of them last ten years. Japanese pessimism in local labor markets reflects that in 2020 the country’s economy had the lowest job-to-job ratio in nearly 50 years.

Japanese adults are cynical about the direction of their local economy

Although their outlook for the economy has improved somewhat since 2020, when the majority saw a deterioration, Japanese adults are still unsure where it is headed. Almost half of Japanese adults (47%) in 2021 say economic conditions around them have worsened, while 29% say they are improving. This is still lower than in 2019, when 37% of Japanese adults said their local economy was improving and 34% reported that their local economy was deteriorating.

Japan economy

Line diagram. Japanese Adults’ Perceptions of Their Local Economy. Currently, 47% of Japanese adults say their local economy is deteriorating, while 29% say they are getting better. This compares to 34% who said they were getting worse and 37% who said they would get better in 2019.

Most Japanese adults lack confidence in their national government

In addition to the country’s economic problems, Kishida is also facing a crisis of confidence in the country’s government. Prior to taking office, 29% of Japanese adults said they had confidence in their government, while 63% said they did not. Confidence in the government is currently at its lowest level since 2012.

Japan ConfGovt

Line diagram. The percentage of Japanese adults who trust their country’s national government. Currently, 63% lack confidence while 29% have confidence. This compares with 41% who said they were confident and 50% who didn’t in 2019.

Confidence in the Japanese national government had remained stable during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 42% of the Japanese public said they had confidence in the national government and 51% said they did not, compared with 41% who trusted the government and 50% who im before the pandemic Failed to trust the country’s government in 2019, at least in part, due to a supposedly slow roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in the country.

Bottom line

Kishida comes into office and faces serious economic challenges, compounded by people’s lack of confidence in the Japanese government. These problems would be daunting for any leader and will only be made more urgent with the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 31st.

Japanese politics has long been described as a struggle between the various factions of Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The party has been the dominant force in the government of Japan since the end of World War II and has been the ruling party in Japan 90% of the time since its inception in 1955. The LDP was in power only between 1993 and 1994 and 2009-2012. However, given the country’s economic troubles, low confidence in the government, and the short time to change things before the elections, political change could be on the cards for Japan.

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The full methodology and specific survey data can be found in the details of Gallup’s country data set.

Find out more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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