How did Japan's post-bubble recession result in the situations of the "lost generation", the "stressed society", and the normalization of depression?

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To get a better understanding of this question, we would first have to have an understanding of what the post- bubble recession is, in the context of Japan. Japan’s post war economy experienced tremendous economic growth from the early 1950s up to the late 1980s, growth which eventually catapulted them to the worlds number two economy (second only to the United States). Much of this growth was fuelled by exports of high tech products and manufactured goods as well as a high domestic savings rate. In the 1980s the monetary and domestic economic policies of Japan fuelled an expansionist property bubble in the country. When this property bubble collapsed (as they always do), It had a cascade effect on the rest of the Japanese economy that resulted in an economic recession. The ongoing perennial recession is what is referred to as the lost decade (particularly the 90s), where there was little or no economic growth and in some years actual economic contraction.

The perennial recession resulted in what is referred to as the “lost generation”; these were Japanese citizens that had become completely disillusioned about their economic and social prospects. The traditional Japanese workforce arrangement was usually virtually guaranteed employment for life by a single company. As long as an employee was loyal and put in the hours and effort they could expect to stay with a company for majority of their working life and retire with a pension. The recession and resulting lost decade, completely upended this social dynamic and had far reaching consequences on social dynamic in Japan. 

George Kendall Vickery in describing members of the “stressed society” touches on the results and effects of Japan’s recession. The author goes into to detail regarding how the recession affected the social fabric of the country, effects that influenced family relationships, work-life balance and peoples self image. Examples of the direct consequences that the strains and stress placed on Japanese society included: 

  1. Increase in suicides – Men who lost their jobs (or could not find one) and could no longer provide for their families (or get married in the first place), opted to end their lives rather than live with the shame and indignity of joblessness.
  2. Reduced birth rates – Japan already had a declining birth rate to begin with, but the poor economic conditions did not help matters. Families chose to have less children or delayed having them, due to uncertainties over being able to support a family in the depressed economic environment

The normalization of the depression deals with how the country came to cope with the lost decade. Since most of the attempted economic remedies failed, the countries leaders and populace at large resigned to adapting to the malaise conditions. However it should be noted that despite the decade of depression, Japan remained the worlds number two economy throughout this period (China only recently surpassed it).

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