The income gap among Japanese households has improved slightly from a record-high disparity, a government survey conducted in 2017 shows.
The key parameter for measuring income inequalities, known as the Gini coefficient, came to 0.5594 in the survey, down just 0.0110 point from the previous study in 2014, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.
A Gini coefficient of 1 expresses maximal inequality, where only one person has all the income in the society. A Gini coefficient of 0.4 is regarded by social scientists as the danger line where income inequality could trigger social unrest.
The ministry attributed the slightly narrower income disparity, the first improvement in 36 years, to a rise in income levels on the back of economic recovery.
The gap, however, looks only to widen in the future based on the growing number of retired elderly living solely on pension income amid a rapidly graying society.
According to the latest survey, which covered income for 2016, the annual average before tax and social security benefits like public pensions, across all Japanese households rose 9.3 percent to ¥4.29 million from the previous survey. In contrast, the average for households consisting of elderly people 65 and over sat at around ¥1 million, up 5.4 percent, and for single-mother households at ¥2.37 million, up 23.2 percent.
The Gini coefficient for “redistributed income” — net income inclusive of social security benefits — stood at 0.3721, an improvement of 33.5 percent compared with the Gini coefficient for gross income excluding benefits.
The study, which has been conducted around once every three years since 1962, was most recently conducted in July and August 2017 on 8,645 households, of which 4,415 households gave valid responses.