January 5, 2014


Hyogo Prefecture's Long-Term Vision for the 21st Century and the 'Hyogo Well-being Index'

Keywords: Newsletter Well-Being 

JFS Newsletter No.136 (December 2013)

JFS launched its "Local Well-Being" Project, in April 2013, to focus on local activities as the foundation of sustainability, in order to help municipalities create indicators of happiness and well-being that are truly meaningful. In this newsletter, we introduce an initiative by Hyogo Prefecture, done in cooperation with Prof. Takayoshi Kusago at Kansai University, to quantify the well-being of citizens based on a long-term vision. Hyogo Prefecture is Japan's seventh most populous prefecture, with a population of about 5.6 million people, and a land area of 8,396 square kilometers. Kobe is its capital city.

The following is an article submitted to JFS by Takayoshi Kusago, who participated in the project.


The "Hyogo Long-Term Vision for the 21st Century" was first formulated in 2001 to show how living and working styles in Hyogo Prefecture could be in the future. It was revised in 2011 to reflect significant social changes, such as the rapid decline and aging of its population.

In its long-term vision, priority was first given to the creation of local visions. These were developed through discussions with citizens about the future of their communities based on their local realities. After being adjusted for each local vision, the prefectural vision was created to show a way to realize a future Hyogo Prefecture.

The prefectural vision sets out four themes: a creative civil society, a society that revitalizes employment, an environment-friendly society, and a society with a variety of social interaction.

One inspiration for the theme of a creative civil society was the civic movement that emerged in 1995, "Year One for Volunteerism" in Japan, when volunteers stepped up to help in the aftermath of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Once the national tax system was revised in 2011 to recognize donations to non-profit organizations, we think it signaled the formation, finally, of the foundation of a creative civil society.

Regarding a society that revitalizes employment, the very concept of work and attitudes toward it have changed a lot lately, with dramatic changes in circumstances surrounding work itself, such as the overall unemployment rate among young people (aged 15 to 24) currently being around seven percent. Under such serious conditions, how to revitalize our basis of living such as jobs and industry is a very important challenge to tackle. The Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster located on Port Island is an example of such efforts at revitalization.

The first feature of the long-term vision is its structure, in that the local visions firmly support the prefectural vision. The second one is its emphasis on process; frequent discussions with local residents are considered important in this age of rapid change. The third one is a participative and cooperative spirit as the most important core value. The theme of the regional future can be drawn only when people living there have a sense of playing an important role in it.

The working group on indicators was established to discuss indicators for measuring realization of the vision, with chairpersons of all local visions and citizens selected from among applicants. They discussed what kind of index is needed, what the meaning of the index is, and the differences between the local index and the prefectural index. This is what participation and working together really mean, because the participation and collaboration of citizens is crucial in the creation and practical realization of a vision.

To realize the four social themes of the prefectural vision, five action goals were established. Meanwhile, the "Hyogo Well-being Index" , newly developed in the course of promoting the long-term vision, was discussed in the working group on indicators. It measures the degree of attainment of the vision and the degree of people's realization of well-being.

We often use indexes in our daily lives, for example, when we measure our weight on a scale to monitor our health. We intended to create an index to see if our efforts to realize the vision would actually result in a society laid out in the vision.

To be specific, we created the well-being index in light of the 12 future themes outlined in the long-term vision. We quantified well-being in living for each of the 12 future themes. The well-being index was calculated by adding up the 12 figures for future themes.

Followings are:

Social themes in the prefectural vision Primary future themes of Hyogo Prefecture
Creative civil society 1. To increase self-reliance and safety by reinforcing human relations
2. To create a society where people can live a healthy life of quality at the Hyogo level
3. To foster human resources that can support future generations and try various efforts for the future
Society revitalizing employment 4. To strengthen the power of industry to shape the future
5. To foster sustainable industries at the local community level
6. To create jobs that can bring meaning to workers' lives
Environment-friendly society 7. To create a community where people live in harmony with nature
8. To create an advanced low-carbon city by effectively utilizing resources
9. To build a safe and secure foundation against disasters
Society with a variety of social interaction 10. To build a foundation that can support human relations and the sustainability of communities
11. To activate local communities by increasing their self-reliance using their unique features and connections between communities
12. To use interaction with foreign countries to help create the future of Hyogo

Points are calculated based on the results of efforts towards realizing the visions, as well as the findings of public opinion surveys targeting prefectural residents that have been conducted since fiscal 2002. The most recent survey consisted of 60 questions that prefectural residents were asked about various issues. The results are then quantified into points, and then the points are summed up as an index.

For example, Theme No. 1, which is "To increase the self-reliance and safety of people by reinforcing human relations," has eight questions. The most recent research found that human relations are indispensable and important in the lives of residents. The first question is whether they can communicate among family members. The communication modes include those by telephone or similar media, because family members should stay in touch with each other wherever they live. Security and happiness in our individual lives depend on whether we can communicate with family members or not. This is why the first question was chosen.

To acquire security and safety requires various types of support from the government and others when risks are high in our society, as they are now. More important, however, is to know how residents can support each other in the community and whether they actually do support each other.

Theme No. 6, "To create jobs that bring meaning to workers' lives," includes four questions. Jobs are related to the happiness of people. When more people are engaged in jobs and more workers find meaning and satisfaction, then well-being is graded higher. The fourth question is whether their jobs and home lives are well balanced. As both are important elements of well-being, we are able grasp the actual state of both.

By conducting these surveys annually, the prefectural government can measure achievement levels and residents' satisfaction in terms of individual fields as well as the vision as a whole. Numerical values, however, are not all that matters. For example, what if you gained one kilogram in weight? You may be preoccupied with the increased weight, but you need to also consider the reason for the gain. Similarly, in the case of the well-being index, it is quite important to analyze the data obtained after measuring the individual values of the 12 future themes.

Furthermore, it is important for local governments, communities, and residents themselves to know the actual state of their own areas. The aim of the index is not just to measure the satisfaction levels of local residents. What's more significant is how effectively the measured data are utilized. It is important for local residents to use the index to detect changes and grasp how their areas have changed. By sharing index data, people can increase communication among themselves, which provides more opportunities to think about the well-being of their area. I hope that the index will be used in such a way.

Many people in various fields -- a total of over 6,000 people since 2001 -- were engaged in the formulation of Hyogo's visions, including the local visions. Among these people, some are developing various activities in their communities, meaning that community leaders are being nurtured in the process of creating visions.

In addition, some relationships which were previously unnoticed in a community have been revealed, or new relationships have been created through the formulation of the visions. For example, the University of Hyogo established an on-site laboratory called the "Meimai Machinaka Lab" in Meimai Danchi, a housing complex straddling Tarumi Ward, Kobe City, and Akashi City, with support from the prefectural government. In the lab, the university has discussions with local residents about ways to promote community building and the revitalization of the housing complex. I think the steady promotion of the visions in communities has produced these results.

While helping local people develop their visions for the future, I am always impressed by their enthusiasm. They are proud of their neighborhoods, as they list their many good points. I also believe that finding as many as 6,000 people who truly appreciate their area is an incredible asset for Hyogo Prefecture.

Hyogo's initiative to create and plan towards realizing a regional vision is unique in Japan, and especially significant in the sense that the creation of visions has led to the establishment of indexes to measure progress -- something it is hoped will spread nationally and globally. For Hyogo Prefecture, it is also important to devise ways to encourage young people in their teens and twenties, who will play a key role in Hyogo's future, to actively participate in the efforts to realize the visions. I believe that the prefecture can further promote the initiative by showing the index data to young people whenever possible and soliciting new ideas from them.

Written by Takayoshi Kusago