Japanese people are becoming more pessimistic about the troubled economy and more worried that their society is becoming increasingly unstable, according to a survey released Saturday.

The Cabinet Office conducted the survey in December 2002, questioning 10,000 people aged 20 or older and getting responses from 68 percent, or 6,798.

Respondents were pessimistic about the Japanese economy, with 65.3 percent saying the business climate is likely to take a turn for the worse. That figure was up from the 46.9 percent registered in the 2001 survey.

The survey showed that 51.6 percent believe the employment situation is likely to deteriorate, while 41.9 percent feel state finances may worsen. Those numbers are up from 36.1 percent for employment and 43 percent on state finances one year ago.

When asked about the state of Japanese society, exactly half said they found it peaceful, a record low and down from the previous figure of 55.2 percent.

Only 11.6 percent of respondents believe Japanese society is stable, another record low and down from 15.3 percent. More people are finding society lacks vigor, as the figure rose to a record high of 30.5 percent, up from 22 percent in the previous survey.

Many people said they believe that life is becoming more pressured and there are fewer opportunities to relax, with the figure rising to a record high of 35.8 percent, up from 31.1 percent.

The poll also suggested that people are less interested in making a contribution to society, with 58.9 percent saying they want to make a contribution, down from 60.7 percent in the previous survey.

Thirty percent of respondents placed more priority on the individual than on the greater good, up from 28.4 percent.

For the first time, the Cabinet Office asked questions about family size. Most respondents, or 45.2 percent, said having three children was ideal. But 45.5 percent said that two was a realistic number — reflecting the lack of support in Japan for working parents.

Among single people living by themselves, 27.7 percent of men and 15 percent of women said they do not have anybody they can depend on. This was also the first time the Cabinet Office asked this question.

The survey found that older women do not depend on their husbands as much as their husbands depend on them, with 66.5 percent of women in their 70s saying they can rely on their spouses, while 81.6 percent of men said the same.

The office has been conducting polls on various societal issues since 1969.

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