Japan 2010

Total score


Quick facts

  • 126.8 million
Population growth:
  • -0.24 %
Unemployement rate:
  • 5.2 %
  • 4338 billion $
GDP growth rate:
  • 3 %
GDP per capita:
  • 34200 $

Score and comments

Political Freedom
Free and Fair Elections

Elections in Japan are generally free and fair. Parliamentary elections are divided into elections for the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. The House of Representatives is elected every four years whereas the members of the House of Councillors are elected for six-year terms. Even though political pluralism and participation are generally unrestricted, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been in power for nearly 55 years until she was defeated by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the 2009 elections. Japan has a very strong civic culture and there are numerous civic, human rights, welfare, and environmental organisations that can assemble freely and voice their opinion without restrictions.

Absence of Unconstitutional Veto Players

In the political system of Japan there are no unconstitutional veto players of significance. All potential veto powers such as the military or influential business groups are under civilian control. Therefore, there is no potential threat to the stability and integrity of the government by such external forces.

Freedom of Press

The press in Japan is free and unrestricted. Most print media and broadcasting stations are privately owned. The only obstacle to press freedom in Japan are the kisha kurabu or press clubs: To ensure that news coverage is homogeneous they foster relations between politicians, bureaucrats and media representatives. In exchange for direct access to politicians, journalists practice self-censorship in their political reporting. Therefore, the media’s ability to pressure politicians to greater transparency and accountability is somewhat constrained. The use of the internet however is free and unrestricted. Reporters without Borders ranked Japan in their 2009 Index on position 17 out of 175.

Rule of Law
Independence of the Judiciary

The judiciary is independent from external pressure. The judicial structure in Japan consists of several levels, and judges are impartial. The Japanese legal system does not know trial by jury.


The ‚iron triangle‘ of LDP, bureaucrats, and big business was the root of Japan‘s huge post-war economic success but has also frequently been criticised as breeding ground of corruption. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi undertook large efforts to break this vicious cycle by trying to break up the strong ties between politics and big business - however, with limited success. Japan is also party to the UN Convention against Corruption but has not yet ratified it into national law. Transparency International ranked Japan in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index on position 17 out of 180.

Protection of Human Rights

Human rights are protected. Japan is party to all major UN conventions relating to this subject. From our liberal perspective however, one major desideratum still persists: Japan has not yet abolished the death penalty. Instead, Japan actually voted against the UN resolution proposing a worldwide moratorium of the death penalty. In 2008, 15 executions were carried out – this has been the highest number of executions since 1975. Besides this, according to Amnesty International, prison conditions do not comply with international standards. Inmates have only limited access to medical care. Pre-trial detention conditions are subject to criticism as suspects have only limited access to lawyers. Therefore there is a higher chance of abusive interrogation methods and coerced

confessions. Besides this, the overall situation of human rights in Japan is quite good as reflected in our score.

Read more
Economic Freedom
Security of Property Rights

Property - both real and intellectual - is well protected. The only drawback is that it can be tedious and expensive to get patents and copyrights. Contracts are in general highly respected.

Size of Government: Expenditures, Taxes, and Enterprises

Government spending (which includes consumption and transfer payments) is high, equalling about 36 percent of the GDP. There is a further upward trend since Japan has to pay for rising cost of social welfare for its ageing population. Overall tax revenue - about 27.9 percent of the GDP - consists of a rather high income tax rate (50 percent), an average corporate tax rate (41 percent), a VAT, a tax on interest, and on real estate.

Regulation of Credit, Labour, and Business

Starting, running, and closing a business is well regulated. It takes 23 days to start a business which is far below the world average of 35 days, to get a business license takes less that the average of 18 procedures and 218 days. Bankruptcy proceedings are uncomplicated. Labour regulations are comparably flexible. The non-salary cost of an employee is moderate, firing procedures are uncomplicated. However, regulations regarding work hours are fairly rigid.

Freedom to Trade Internationally

Japan‘s weighted average tariff rate was 1.3 percent in 2008. Potential obstacles to international trade include import/export bans and restrictions; opaque regulations; state trade in some goods; and an inefficient customs administration.

Choose a freedom parameter:

Change year:

Compare Japan with:


Share data's for this country: