Japanese kindness leaves a lot to be desired in World Giving Index, but there may be a reason for it.

People in Japan are well known for their kindness, so it may come as a surprise to hear that it actually ranks as the worst country in the world when it comes to helping strangers.

The revelation came to light in the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index for 2023, which ranks 142 countries in three different categories: donating money to charity, helping a stranger, and volunteering time.

In the “Helped a Stranger” category, Japan ranked last, in 142nd position out of 142 countries, with responses indicating that 21 percent of the population had helped someone they didn’t know in the past month. That’s compared to 83 percent of the population in the top-ranking country, Jamaica.

▼ Top 10 on the left, Bottom 10 on the right.

Japan didn’t fare much better in the two other categories, with 16 percent of the population having donated money and 17 percent having volunteered in the past month, but it was enough to keep the country out of the bottom 10.

However, in terms of the overall World Giving Index, which takes all three categories into account, Japan ranked fourth last, coming in at 139th place with an index of 18, tying it with Greece in 138th place, Yemen in 140th place and Croatia in second-last place, with Poland ranking at the bottom with an index of 15.

While Japan’s rankings leave a lot to be desired, it’s worth noting that the annual report uses data gathered by Gallup, which measures responses in terms of a country’s population size. With latest figures putting Japan’s population at 124,352,000, that means in terms of numbers, 21 percent of the population who’ve helped a stranger in the past month equates to around 26 million people, which is considerably more than Jamaica’s entire population of 2.83 million.

▼ Putting these stats in terms of actual numbers presents a happier picture.

Still, there’s no doubt that Japan can do a lot better, although online comments from local Japanese reflected a variety of views.

“If you consider friendliness to be kindness, then yes, it’s at the bottom.”
“This makes sense. A while ago, when an old man fell while trying to get on a train, a young man of Western descent who appeared to be a tourist was the first to run and help him up. Japanese people, like myself, just watched from the sidelines.”
“From my experience living in America, Americans often ask people for directions and time. The conversation begins before you know it so it’s easy to help or ask for help.”
“Most of us can’t speak English so when it comes to helping foreigners we’re introverted.”
“Maybe we have a different view on what a donation is — I throw money in the box at a shrine but wouldn’t count that as a donation.”
“In times of disasters, I think we’re very good at providing help.”

It’s true that in 2011, when the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami occurred, Japan’s rankings rose in the Index. However, this year’s data reveals that there are other factors that influence generosity — countries with high happiness levels, large numbers of immigrants, and strong religious beliefs that emphasise the importance of donations all have a higher overall Giving Index score.

That doesn’t bode well for Japan, but it’s not all gloom and doom if we look at the bigger picture. As anyone who’s lived in or visited Japan will know, most of the locals are more than happy to help if asked, and perhaps that’s the point — people in Japan may be less inclined to ask for help than people in other countries, and this cultural difference is a factor that the survey doesn’t take into account. Plus, there are traditions and formal business practices that might be viewed as helpful to strangers in other countries, but here are simply considered the norm.

So although Japan definitely has room to improve in the rankings, don’t let the findings dissuade you from asking for help in Japan. People will go out of their way to help you…as long as you’re not trying to swindle them with a lie!

Source: CAF World Giving Index 2024 via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: CAF World Giving Index 2024
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