Throughout the 1990s, the Japanese unemployment rate was – ready for this? – about three percent. Not 30 percent, that’s three percent: about half the US unemployment rate at the time. During that allegedly “lost decade,” the Japanese also had universal health care, less inequality, the highest life expectancy and low rates of infant mortality, crime and incarceration. Americans should be so lucky as to experience a Japanese-style lost decade.
The best measure is not overall GDP growth, but the growth of income per head of the working-age population (not per capita). This last element is important because only the working-age population represents an economy’s productive potential.
When one looks at GDP/WAP (defined as population aged 20-60), one gets a surprising result: Japan has actually done better than the US or most European countries over the last decade.