June 15, 2017


Fewer People Think Continued GDP Growth Necessary or Possible -- Survey Results Released

Keywords: Newsletter Steady-State Economy 

JFS Newsletter No.177 (May 2017)

Image by PublicDomainPictures Some Rights Reserved.

Changes in technology are enabling our modes of living to be perceived visually better. At the same time, though, changes in people's sense of values are transforming the times almost imperceptibly.

The Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES), a JFS partner organization, has been conducting surveys on these "almost invisible changes," in order to provide a clear picture of them. During the past several years, the institute has conducted surveys twice asking whether GDP growth is necessary or even possible. The results of those surveys indicate changes in people's sense of values about happiness and well-being, the things that are most important to them, how people work, economic growth, and the desirable state of the economy.

In this issue, we introduce the results of a survey on economic growth conducted in March 2017 by the Edahiro Junko Laboratory, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Tokyo City University, in cooperation with ISHES.

Reference: Previous survey conducted in 2014 The Dilemma of Economic Growth - Necessity vs. Feasibility Results of Survey on Economic Growth

The Edahiro Junko Laboratory at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, Tokyo City University (Tsuzuki-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture) released results of a survey on economic growth on April 13, 2017.

The survey was conducted to discover what people think about the necessity and possibility of growth in the GDP, an indicator of the size of economy. Its significant results are described below.

The survey asked people whether or not they thought continued GDP growth was necessary. In response to the question, 66 percent of respondents (823 people) replied that it was "necessary" or "somewhat necessary." Compared with a similar survey conducted in 2014, the percentage had dropped significantly from 83.4 percent (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Do you think continued GDP growth is necessary for Japan?

The survey also asked about the feasibility of continued GDP growth. In response to the question "Do you think that it will be possible for the GDP to keep growing?" 35.4 percent (442 people) responded with "possible" or "somewhat possible." This percentage had also dropped from that in 2014, 42.8 percent (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Do you think that it will be possible for Japan's GDP to keep growing?

Of respondents who agreed or somewhat agreed that continued GDP growth was necessary, 43.1 percent (355 people) agreed or somewhat agreed that it would be impossible for it to keep growing. In the 2014 survey, the analogous figure was 31.6 percent, indicating that the number of people tending to think it impossible is increasing among those who tend to think that continued GDP growth is necessary.

The survey asked the respondents to explain their choices. "Declining birthrate and aging population" and "declining population" were the most common reasons cited by respondents for considering continued GDP growth "necessary" but "impossible" or "somewhat impossible." Many of those replying that continued GDP growth would be "possible" or "somewhat possible" expressed expectations for Japanese technological capabilities and diligence, also noting "There will be no growth if we don't believe in that possibility" or, simply, "I believe."

On the other hand, many respondents who disagreed or somewhat disagreed that continued GDP growth was necessary focused on the negative aspects of continued GDP growth, such as economic growth not equating to happiness, this being a time for quality rather than quantity, or concerns that we might end up imposing an uncompromising lifestyle on society if we pursued only economic growth.

Compared to the results of the previous survey conducted three years ago, the number who considered continued GDP growth in Japan necessary turned out to be substantially lower, as did the number who thought it feasible. The survey can be said to show how people's thoughts and values are changing with regard to the GDP as a means of measuring economic growth.

Now that we are hitting the Earth's limits, a new form of economy is required that can provide happiness without requiring further GDP growth. The Edahiro Laboratory will study this theme further, looking at "steady-state economy" "sufficiency economy" and "highly resilient, community-based economies."

* This survey was carried out by the Edahiro Junko Laboratory at the Tokyo City University Faculty of Environmental Studies, (Tsuzuki-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture) from March 16 to 18, 2017, with a subsidy from the Asahi Group Foundation. It was conducted by the Japanese online research company Macromill Inc., with the participation of 1,248 citizens in their twenties through seventies, who completed the survey as monitors registered with the company. The percentages of the monitors' generations, genders, and places of residence (metropolitan areas versus mid-to-small-size regional cities or rural areas) were made proportionate to demographics identified by Japan's national census.

* The previous survey in 2014 was conducted similarly online by Macromill, completed by 500 monitors.

* In the 2014 survey, the choices were "necessary," "somewhat necessary," "somewhat unnecessary" and "unnecessary," whereas in the 2017 survey the choices were "agree," "somewhat agree," "rather disagree" and "disagree." In addition, the 2014 survey asked "Do you think that it will be possible for the GDP to keep growing?" while the 2017 survey asked "Do you think it will be possible for Japan's GDP to keep growing?"

Survey led by: Edahiro Junko Laboratory Faculty of Environmental Studies Tokyo City University URL: (Japanese only)

In cooperation with: Institute of Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES)