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The best and worst of life in Okinawa published

Date Posted: 2004-08-05

The Okinawa Prefecture Project Development Section has compiled and published a study that compares Okinawan living standards and quality to other prefectures in the nation.

The study covered such areas as social life, economics, food, housing, environment, and other publicly available statistics. The basic index figure in all areas was 100 to which various aspects of the study were compared. The study divided life in Okinawa into 11 different fields that were broken down in 170 categories.

Of those, Okinawa ranked at or near the top in 18 categories, and it was deemed to be at or near the bottom in 29 categories.

On the positive side, Okinawa is well ahead of the rest of the nation in the number of children born to woman. A woman in Okinawa gives birth to an average 1.72 children in her lifetime, while the national average is at a record low of 1.29.

Okinawa is also one of the few prefectures where the overall population is rising. The proportion of children of 0 to 14 years of age is also the highest in Japan. Accordingly, the number of available nursery school and kindergarten slots per 1,000 children is the highest in the nation.

It’s then not surprising that the average age of Okinawan is 37.5 years while nationwide average age is 41.4.

Okinawa also has far more centenarians than any other prefecture. The rate of centenarians in Okinawa stands at 42.5 per 100,000 people while the nationwide average is only 16.1.

Not so positive is the fact that Okinawan couples divorce more than anyone else in Japan.

Okinawan entrepreneurial spirit gets also high marks in the survey for opening new businesses. On average, more new businesses are started here than elsewhere, but they are small and close down more than in other prefectures.

That is also reflected in the fact that the jobless rate is the highest in Japan. Okinawans also change jobs more easily than workers in mainland Japan, but at the same time those who work, work the longest hours per month.

The number of service businesses, especially restaurants and bars is very high. So is the number of businesses that concentrate on traditional handicrafts.

The ration of female civil servants is the highest, and finally, Okinawa gets more government subsidy money that any other prefecture, mostly thanks to the concentration of the U.S. troops here.

On the negative side, the survey cites a high rate of deaths in traffic accidents, an almost complete lack of manufacturing industry, and the small average size of Okinawan companies. Okinawans also earn only 70 percent of the average national wages, but at the same time the cost of living is also relatively low.

As could be expected, people’s savings in Okinawa are the lowest in Japan, and smaller percentage of students goes to higher education than elsewhere, and consequently, fewer graduate from universities. Youth crime rate is also higher than national average.

Other negative points include large number of road construction projects that disturb traffic and cause jams – a direct result of generous state subsidies. The overall number of traffic accidents is also the highest in Japan, not to mention the notoriously bad reputation that the prefecture has for drinking and driving.

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