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The Japanese wage problem

I read a lot about Japan. It has interested me since the early 1990s commercial property collapse and the subsequent fiscal and monetary policy measures that the Japanese government deployed to deal with it, which took policy settings outside the bounds that mainstream economists could cope with. These economists predicted the worst based on mindless extrapolations of their ‘theoretical’ models, which are really incapable of dealing with the real world in any meaningful way. Their worst didn’t come and some 3 decades later, with policy settings still at ‘extreme’ levels compared to the way mainstream economists think (and the policy makers are not budging it seems), Japan continues to demonstrate why New Keynesian macroeconomics is inapplicable and why Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has traction. And while Japan provides first-class public transport, health and education systems, a viable housing policy, good urban systems, and has maintained low unemployment rates even during the GFC and the pandemic, there is one feature that is troublesome – the flat lining wages growth over the last 20 years. I have been very interested in learning the reasons for this phenomenon, which sets Japan apart from most other nations (who have also experienced low wages growth – but not that low). I plan to work on this aspect, in part, when I move to Kyoto next month for an extended stay.

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