A Mixture of Familiar and Peculiar

Japan is an interesting mixture of familiar and peculiar to Finns. Common things can be found in the nature and in the age structure of the population. Japanese working life, on the other hand, is very different. Working hours are longer and vacations shorter. Hurry and stress, however, do not fade the Japanese smile.

Forest Covers Most of the Terrain

Like in Finland, also in Japan most of the terrain (66%) is covered with forest. Farmland takes 13% and built-up areas less than 5%. Hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters are typical of Japan, but the climate varies a lot between the islands. Honshu gets much more snow than the others. Since the Japanese archipelago lies at the cusp of a major triple junction of three major plates, which interact in a complex and unpredictable way, it is prone to earthquakes. Minor earthquakes take place all the time and major ones many times in a century. Out of some 160 volcanoes about one third is still active.

World’s Highest Elderly Ratio

Among the developed countries, only Japan has a more rapid change in the age structure of population than Finland. In Japan, the percentage of elderly citizens, 65 or older, was highest in the world ( 23% ) in 2010. Also, Japanese tend to have a long life. The life expectancy of women was 86.4 years and that of men a little bit lower in 2010. Most of the Japanese live in cities. Population density is highest in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya with more than 1,000 persons per square km. Compared to Japanese, Finns live spaciously both in their homes and their cities.

Services Take Over

Japan’s industrial structure keeps changing rapidly to more and more service dominated. The tertiary industry accounts for 70% of the GDP. In Finland, the proportion of services is 68.5%. Japan’s trade balance is in surplus. The leading export item category was transport equipment followed by general machinery and electrical machinery. Imports are dominated by fuels. Trade between Finland and Japan is modest, but the Finnish exports to Japan are growing. The Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Japan estimates that our trade balance with Japan emerges from deficit to surplus in 2011. Finland keeps exporting mainly forest industry products to Japan. Imports, however, have experienced a significant change over the years. Components for the telecom industry have surpassed cars and consumer electronics.

Care-work is increasing

Employment rate in Japan (59.6%) seems to be lower than in Finland, although the figures are not fully comparable. Women’s employment rate is only 48.5%. Most Japanese work in services (70.9%). Care-work employs more and more people, mainly women. Permanent employment relationships, not to talk about life-long relationships, are diminishing. Temporary work burdens especially women. As much as 53.8% of employed women were without permanent employment relationship. The respective figure for men was only 18.9%. Unemployment increases also in Japan. In May 2011, the unemployment rate was 4.5%. For a long time, men’s unemployment rate has been higher than that of women.


Mukana Hanakossa

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Sirje Hassinen | sirje.hassinen@omnia.fi
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