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Japan election

Japan's 30-year wage slump hangs over distribution debate

Inequality eased during 2010s, but economy still not generating more wealth

Commuters in Tokyo: Wage growth in Japan has lagged far below the OECD average over the past three decades.  (Photo by Mamoru Yago)

TOKYO -- As Japan's political parties spar over how to reduce inequality ahead of the upcoming general election, three decades of nearly flat wages suggest that growing the economic pie first may be a more pressing priority.

Annual real wages in Japan averaged about $39,000 in 2020 at purchasing power parity last year, an increase of just 4% from 30 years earlier, according to data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Over the same period, U.S. wages jumped by roughly half to $69,000, and the OECD average rose by a third to $49,000.

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