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Japan Survey Shows Low Confidence

April 28, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Pummeled by a bad economy, rising crime and general social malaise, the Japanese are more pessimistic about their country and its future than they have been in decades, a government survey shows.

The Education Ministry study, based on 2,680 responses last September and October, showed record lows in confidence in Japan’s economic and technological levels.

The dark mood has even hit people individually: respondents’ emotional well-being was at a record low, and only 19 percent of those surveyed said they expected to achieve happiness in their lifetimes.

``The people are losing confidence as a whole because of the recession,″ Yoshiyuki Sakamoto, of the ministry’s Institute of Statistical Mathematics, told reporters when the survey was released Tuesday.

The announcement comes at a tough time for Japan. The economy, in a rut for most of the 1990s, is now stuck in its deepest recession since the end of World War II.

The economy is not the only worry. Japan’s low crime rates are spiking upwards, particularly among youth. The country’s education, health and even family systems are largely seen as outmoded and in need of drastic reform.

The survey, conducted in varying forms every five years since 1953, marked a sharp contrast with the previous poll taken in 1993.

Respondents who said they were emotionally well-off dived 15 points to a record 26 percent. Satisfaction with living standards plunged 21 points to 53 percent.

On the national economy, the feeling that it is in good or fairly good condition crashed from a robust 79 percent five years ago to a record low of 32 percent.

Other findings:

_ Respondents who rated Japan’s technological level as very high were at a record low of 24 percent, down from 46 percent in 1993.

_ Forty-seven percent said they would prefer to have a girl if they had only one child, an increase of 11 points. Only 28 percent said they would want a boy, possibly reflecting the feeling that girls are better suited to care for elderly parents.

The survey gave no margin of error.

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