16 percent of the population of Japan live in poverty, and 35 percent of workers are in irregular employment. Almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, are poor. The poverty rate for children aged 17 or younger rose to a record high of 15.7 percent in 2009. Japan’s poverty rate has doubled since the nation’s real estate and stock markets collapsed in the early 1990s, ushering in two decades of income stagnation and even decline (source).
Japan’s poverty rate is measured by the proportion of people earning less than half of the country’s median income. This is similar to the measurement system used in the U.K., but different from the American system. When the same measurement system is applied to the U.S., the poverty rate there would be 17.1%, slightly higher than in Japan and slightly higher than the official U.S. poverty rate.
It’s very hard to come by datasets or graphical representations. This is the best I could do:
I also found this graph, which gives the income distribution for different years:
Apparently, no one or almost no one lives under the $1 a day poverty threshold established by the World Bank. Or even under the $2 threshold. I find that hard to believe.
Another possible indicator of poverty is the number of public assistance beneficiaries. That’s 1.7% of the population. Also an incredibly low number given the poverty figures cited above. It does seem that the Japanese attach a stigma to claiming benefits. This low number may be a function of the relative stinginess of the system rather than a true reflection of poverty:
Income inequality is rather low in Japan: