Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Why do Japanese make fewer charitable donations than people in other countries?

30 Comments

Donations are not Japan’s forte. This emerges with striking clarity in an interview Weekly Playboy (Aug 12) does with Tsukuba University media researcher Yoichi Ochiai. In 2016, charitable donations by individual Americans totaled 30 trillion yen – 1.44 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Individual Japanese, that same year, donated 770 billion yen – 1/40 as much as Americans – or 0.14 percent of GDP – 1/10 the American ratio.

It’s not only against the U.S. that Japan comes off badly in this regard – if, in fact, a negative view is called for. Britons donate the equivalent of 0.54 percent of GDP; South Koreans, 0.5 percent.

 Are Japanese  less charitable, less sympathetic than others? Does their culture place greater emphasis on self-reliance?

 “I don’t know about the remote past,” Ochiai says, “but Japan after World War Two miraculously achieved an ‘all-middle-class society’ that lasted something like 50 years.”

Conditions favored it. War had razed the country and leveled the classes. Everyone began at the bottom, as the country itself did. All worked together to rebuild it, and all rose as the rebuilding proceeded.

Equality peaked in the 1980s and eroded as the economy did in the 1990s. The kakusa shakai – “gap society,” the widening gulf between rich and poor – began then. It is generally considered deplorable – the rich get richer while the poor sink into grimmer and grimmer poverty – but the Playboy interview raises the question: Is it, necessarily, an evil?

The arguments in its favor center on our inherent inequalities – of ability, of luck, and so on. Communism, the great leveling ideology, Ochiai characterizes as “worn-out.” He proposes instead an ethic he calls “liberal paternalism.” Which brings us, of course, back to charitable donations.

Why do Japanese give so much less than Americans? Ochiai raises two points, seemingly at odds with one another but on second thought maybe not. The first is religion; the second, tax deductions.

Religion, in the form of Christianity, plays a vital role in American society, Ochiai explains. Christian charity is not mere cant; it is taken seriously. Buddhism too enjoins charity,  but few Japanese today are more than nominally Buddhist. Americans donating to charities and public service vast fortunes earned in hyper-competitive, often ruthless commerce is a tradition going back to the great 19th-century moguls, Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller most notably. Bill Gates extends the tradition into our own century.

Japanese entrepreneurs seem less inclined to philanthropy – whether because less generous, less guilt-ridden, or more committed to an ideal of self-reliance need not be settled here. As for tax deductions geared towards encouraging private and corporate donations, the American system has evolved over many years, outstripping any steps Japan has taken in that direction, says Ochiai.

The inevitable victory of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in upper house elections last month was a wearying reminder of how little Japanese politics changes over the decades. Is there no hope? asks Playboy. How about, the interviewer suggests, Taro Yamamoto and the new Reiwa Shinsengumi Party he founded in April? It furnished the election’s one surprise: it won two seats. Might it be the wave of the future?

It might be, agrees Ochiai: “Yamamoto’s speeches are really remarkable.” Forcefully and articulately, Yamamoto advocates taxing corporations instead of consumers, halting construction of the Henoko air base in Okinawa, enforcing a 1500-yen minimum wage and scrapping nuclear power. Disability rights, LGBT rights and animal rights would all gain, he promises, under a Reiwa Shinsengumi government.

“At the emotional level, I’m very much in sympathy with this,” says Ochiai. The trouble, he adds, is the shortage of specifics.  How do we get there from here?

It’s a valid point, but unfair, maybe, to press it too hard. It’s early days, after all. The party is all of four months old.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
Login to comment

a) when quoting Weekly Playboy, a photo is MANDATORY!

b) only a guess, but Japanese expect the govt to take care of others, whereas in the USA, it is the family and religious organizations which are expected to take care of others, NOT the govt. Americans are very grateful for their happiness and don't expect the govt to provide it.

Just different philosophies. Each is good, in its own way.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

My sister-in-law works as a director at a large UK charity. She says they don't have campaigns aimed at individuals but raise money from corporations, with tax avoidance a large part of it. This is a charity that helps individuals with health problems, but even then, the money they get from individuals is limited.

TheFu is right in that some charity work is outsourcing of stuff government's in other countries would do using taxation.

As parents in Japan, me and the missus have to do lots of semi-coerced volunteering for our neighbourhood, our kids' schools, and the activities/clubs our kids do. This can be several times a week and start very early in the morning. Since it is expected, no-one refers to it as "volunteering" in Japan, but that's how it would be regarded overseas. So people in Japan may not make monetary donations, but there are lots of people all over the place giving up what can be large amounts of time for all kinds of activities, neighbourhood cleaning and grass cutting, festivals, sports events like marathons, etc. You can't judge people on money giving alone.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

In the U.S. you can deduct donations up to 30 to 60% of your adjusted gross income.

In Japan you can deduct up to ¥50,000. That's peanuts. The J-government ensures that there is no incentive for charitable contributions. It would rather take that tax revenue and use it for overseas aid, which helps Japan's diplomatic standing as well as its own large corporations who get the contracts.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

That's just the way things are---there doesn't have to be a reason----though some people would find that hard to come to terms with.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Comparing pears and apples.

 charitable donations by individual Americans totaled 30 trillion yen

As other said, it's mostly remediating the lack of health insurance and basic social services. It's like tipping the waiter that Americans have to do because the worker is not getting a salary. To compare Americans with others, you have to get the compulsory part out of the sum.

In Japan you can deduct up to ¥50,000. That's peanuts. 

The real donation is not tax collected another way, but only the part you really get out of your pocket.

. In 2016, charitable donations by individual Americans totaled 30 trillion yen – 1.44 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Individual Japanese, that same year, donated 770 billion yen – 1/40 as much as Americans – or 0.14 percent of GDP – 1/10 the American ratio.

It’s not only against the U.S. that Japan comes off badly in this regard – if, in fact, a negative view is called for. Britons donate the equivalent of 0.54 percent of GDP; South Koreans, 0.5 percent.

Mostly what they give to each other, which could be taxes. For what they really give to others, in 2014 , USA gave 0.19% of GDP , same as Japan. OECD average is 0.46%. Sweden and Luxembourg gave more than 1%.

 So people in Japan may not make monetary donations, 

Don't they ? In Japan, you don't give often to a registered organization called 'charity' but you open the wallet every 5 minutes to participate in a 'kompa' or fill a decorated envelop. Many contribute informally to pay bills for funerals, to educate your nephews, to put plants or renovate the local 'public' park and street (that may be space bough by those owning the houses around it), etc. It's a country where the teachers and PTA quietly pay the school lunches, school supply and uniforms for kids whose parents defect.

Buddhism too enjoins charity,  but few Japanese today are more than nominally Buddhist. 

Most J-families I know give money to monks and/or to some churches/cults. Where did the SG got their billions ?

Japanese entrepreneurs seem less inclined to philanthropy 

Less inclined to make it a PR show. J-businesses do a lot of formal and informal sponsoring, all the time. They maintain 100% of religious/historic buildings, matsuri, fund sports events at all levels, created 3/4th of the museums (where most art was given by rich collectors), art galleries, theaters, partnerships with schools/unis. Then, J-companies still participate a lot for the welfare of their lower level employees with corporate housing, which is not considered charity but we are in days when Walmart, Amazon and all the Silicon Valley heroes have no shame escaping taxes while their unimportant staff are sleeping in the street and begging for healthcare.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Americans have always been the biggest charity donators without question. My family usually decides just before the new year what they can afford to give and who will receive it.

Following the Tohoku disasters in 2011, American private donations were the largest of all.

Internally the Japanese give more for a disaster here than overseas.

I have always been moved by the kindness and support from Japanese people.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Giving alms is just what's taught in Christian-historical countries, so those people who are fortunate in wealth give thanks for their fortune by sharing some of it for good karma ("what goes around comes around")

As parents in Japan, me and the missus have to do lots of semi-coerced volunteering for our neighbourhood, our kids' schools, and the activities/clubs our kids do. This can be several times a week and start very early in the morning. Since it is expected, no-one refers to it as "volunteering" in Japan, but that's how it would be regarded overseas.

No one refers to it in Japan because in Japan it is really not volunteering - when it's "semi-coerced" and expected, it's not voluntary, so it should not count as volunteering. Lol

(In other countries, ya can say "no" with it becoming none of their business. So in other countries, it is volunteering. But in Japan, it should not count as volunteering.)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This reminds me of when the Japanese Wikipedia page had a message saying that they don't get a lot of donations from Japan. That didn't go over too well and eventually they removed it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A child born in want and miserable environment grows up to be a stingy and obsessive hoarder. Most current Westerners were born in the baby boomers and subsequent eras when America and Europe were making great economic progress enabled by good economic policies. Their spending habits, naturally, spilled over to their off-springs. There wasn't as much in Asia, especially, in Japan, hence their miserliness and primitive accumilation habits.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

...J-companies still participate a lot for the welfare of their lower level employees with corporate housing, which is not considered charity... 

Nor should it be. That's an employee benefit--like sick leave, holidays, health insurance or anything else the employer provides supplementary to wages.

It's also a not so subtle way of tethering/indenturing employees who will have to fend for themselves should they wish to seek more gratifying employment. All risk is borne by the employees who will not only risk being without a job, but also without a home. All the more reason not to upset and displace the entire family on account of their own lack of fulfillment or opportunity for advancement within the company.

Of course, that doesn't prevent the company from upsetting and displacing employees or their families by moving them across the country to another regional office whenever they please. Shoganai...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

That's not true, I have seen good Japanese that are very kind . It is the same in case of donations all over the world.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

They are not cheap in the way that Dutch or Germans are though.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@therougou

This reminds me of when the Japanese Wikipedia page had a message saying that they don't get a lot of donations from Japan.

No wonder, that place is toxic and overrun by anti-Japanese activists.

The big why is "why the government does not offer tax breaks for charity?". A small part of the answer is because when the "NGO" thing first started to happen, the Yazuka (and other equally criminal operations like the NK supporting groups) were the first on board to exploit it for money laundering.

I think there are multiple cultural issues like it being a big shame to ask for (never mind accept) charity, Buddhist concepts of karma, and it being a "transactional" society, ie where giving and getting back is a way to strengthen group ties.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

25 years ago I asked some people why they - Japanese in general - don’t do more social work. The answer often was that it’s he gov’t’s responsibility. A donation at a shrine rarely goes beyond a few (small) coins. Is it cheapness? Culture? I don’t think Japanese are cheap. It more culture / indoctrination.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

BTW, I do think the gov’t should facilitate through incentives, especially tax incentives, the encouragement of giving. What really matters to society will flourish. I do like the giving of some taxes to local governments in form of purchase of food or other products..sorry I don’t remember the name.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A donation at a shrine rarely goes beyond a few (small) coins. 

The people running those shrines and temples are notoriously rich and exempt from taxes, so they don't need anymore coins.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If they count corporate donations then I don't see it as a good argument. Most corporations use this to reduce tax and for marketing and branding.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I knew this without ever reading a story about it. This may come off wrong to a lot of people but I have always felt that Japanese were by far the least caring people I have ever met when it comes to feelings for people outside your own racial/ethnic group. They seem incredibly cold to me. When earthquakes were hitting Haiti, New Zealand, Nepal and Chile a few years back, I did not hear a single Japanese person in my circle (totaling well over 100 people), even mention those tragedies. News stories seemed to focus only on if any Japanese were hurt or killed. Not once did I see something showing people where they could donate or give help. Most people seem to have no real feeling for the homeless or less fortunate.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Which part of Japan are you in? I don't recognize that at all.

How do you square the hospitality with "not caring"?

Yes, I get the concept of charity is an alien thing but I think the other half is a kid of NIH risk adversion, a "what happens in something goes wrong and who gets blamed?" kind of thing.

For example, I know someone who tried to start a feeding project for homeless appealing for "past the sell by" date food from supermarket because they'd heard about similar overseas.

Cue lots of teeth sucking, and "what ifs?". It's also fair to point out that perhaps the majority of people just don't ever have the time to do something extra, can't get off work etc, so social goods tend to be very local.

There also seems to be an equation that living off donations, as in working for a charity or NGO, is not working for your income.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There are many good NGO's and NPO's working to help people in many ways. I have been involved with several of them myself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would not be surprised to hear that the Japanese dont trust the "story" that their contributions are entirely going towards those in need.... infact... I think they are rather sceptical over how much actually does end up where it's supposed to go. I dont blame them. Charity these days has a lot of Scammers taking over... even from within ... So I wont give a penny to any "Global" organisation as a matter or rule - unless they can prove where that money is going. Instead. I give, locally directly where I know it matters without red-tape/expenses, etc. I suggest you do so too.

Charity begins at home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Insofar as 'tipping' may be perceived as a 'charitable contribution', perhaps whatever inhibits the adoption of tipping in Japan may also be the mechanism which inhibits 'donating'(?). But the author passes over something better explored: Wealthy American 'generosity'. These are BUSINESS deals by narcissistic psychopaths with Compulsive Acquisivity Disease (CAD) who are BUYING FAME by having their names stuck on whatever they can label. Think trump without the advantage of your own real estate to label. These people, innately, do not have a single altruistic neuron in their entire CNS and know only one thing, transactions benefiting them. Yep, 'branding' everything in sight is very American, very 'generous' when money means nothing and trying to look clean after a life of dirty dealing and I mention this only because the author projects the idea that 'generosity' has something to do with large donations by Americans. No. And the problem is that these 'donations' all require a quid pro quo and THAT IS NOT A DONATION, IT IS A BUSINESS DEAL disguised as a donation. And, of course, it's also tax deductible.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Mocheake, “Not once did I see something showing people where they could donate or give help.”

Perhaps you need to pay more attention or change where you look. Every time there is a major disaster the TV news programs and newspapers repeatedly give information about how to donate. And every convenience store or large supermarket I’ve ever been in has boxes for donations that are labeled as to where the money goes. When there’s been a disaster the money will be designated for that, other times it will be for guide dog training or something similar. If you have an interest in a particular cause you can go to the homepages of groups working on that and read their instructions on how to donate. Just a couple days ago Kuroyanagi Tetsuko’s program Tetsuko no Heya gave the account information for her Uniceff fund, information which can be found year round online. At certain times of the year people will be standing outside stations with collection boxes for the Red Cross. Soon the 24 hour charity program run by a TV broadcaster will be on and people can take money to designated spots at shopping malls and such around the country. That information, as well as information on how the money was used is available online also. I could go on but this should be enough to get you started.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Despite the hardships caused by the frequent natural disasters in japan I've yet to hear of japan appealing to other countries for help of any kind. For some countries help is asked for promptly and seemingly expected.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

For 40 years, I worked for a non profit NGO and did a bit of research on per capita giving in the USA. For several years, guess what state gives the most per capita in USA?

One of the poorest: Mississippi. Yes, for several years running, Mississippians gave more per capita than any other state! I think per capita giving is the only real way to measure charity.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@PacificWest

No wonder, that place is toxic and overrun by anti-Japanese activists.

This site isn't overrun by anti-japanese activists, stop confusing legitimate problems and arguments with anti-japanese notions many people here live in Japan or have Japanese spouses. Just because they make negative comments it doesn't mean that hate Japan it just means that Japan like many other countries has problems it needs to fix and like many other countries it likes to ignore them rather then fix them.

I think its pretty hard to be generous on your average salary mans wage and try to raise a family at the same time, its probably more related to inequality and a lack of income then a cheapness in the population.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Educator said

Perhaps you need to pay more attention or change where you look. Every time there is a major disaster the TV news programs and newspapers repeatedly give information about how to donate. And every convenience store or large supermarket I’ve ever been in has boxes for donations that are labeled as to where the money goes. That information, as well as information on how the money was used is available online also. I could go on but this should be enough to get you started.

You didn't read my post correctly and you are talking about things that happened this year in this country not those disasters to which I am referring. Did Kuroyanagi Tetsuko do that to for those disasters outside of Japan? If so, I highly commend her. Did people donate when she highlighted those cases? If so, I highly commend them. Also, just because a line seems long it doesn't mean people are donating lots of money as they probably don't give as much as you think. Therefore, I stand by what I wrote as it is based on MY personal experience here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As for tax deductions geared towards encouraging private and corporate donations, the American system has evolved over many years, outstripping any steps Japan has taken in that direction, says Ochiai.

This entire article could just be reduced to this one sentence to explain the question it purports to be interested in answering.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wrong! People were not on equal terms after the war. The rich were still rich and the regular people were poor. Look at Abe's history and others to see the truth. They retained their wealth and get around the inheritance tax as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You hardly see in Japan people giving to help their unknown neighbour or showing empathy. Obvious if you open your eyes.

They help their inner circles of friends, family, social relationships but so little more.

Christians care for the weak, it is cultural and so give, not out of a rule or for tax reduction outside rich people (compare to the close people met).

Nothing to blame about.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites