Establishing what constitutes ‘need’ has been a long-standing tradition in empirical investigations of poverty. In their pioneering Poor Britain study, Joanna Mack and Stewart Lansley (1985) developed the ‘consensual’ or ‘socially perceived deprivation’ approach. This sought the views of ordinary people (as opposed to academics or professional experts) in determining the necessities of life. Their approach subsequently provided the basis for further UK poverty surveys, as well as studies in other counties in Europe, Australasia, Africa and Asia. Despite this international proliferation, comparative analyses examining public perceptions of need across different societies and cultures remain sparse. This article presents findings from the first Japanese–UK comparative study based on nationally representative surveys informed by Mack and Lansley's approach. It compares the necessities of life in the two societies, examining differences as well as common socially perceived needs, and explores two possible explanations accounting for the variations found. In doing this, the article seeks to contribute to international debates on public attitudes towards the necessities of life.
- life necessities consensual approach