In the nineties, many elements intervened to upset the equilibrium that had been taking shape: first of all, the competition now openly exercised by the first among the NIC (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore), which had greatly improved the technological quality of their products while maintaining their competitiveness, and the explosion of the Chinese economy, with GDP growth rates ten times higher than those of Japan, in the meantime much reduced. Started with the outflow of labor flows, often clandestine, which contributed to disturbing the Japanese labor market, the influence of the great neighbor had become more worrying with the opening of “special economic zones”, the development of maritime transport and the deployment of an increasing amount of resources, the availability of which is truly overwhelming. The economic crisis already presented worrying cyclical symptoms: in 1993, when the recovery took place in the United States and in the major European countries, the growth rate of Japanese gross product was even negative (-0.5%, compared to an average of + 4.4% in the period 1985-92). The value returned positive in 1995 (+ 0.9%), however, it was by far the lowest in the East and South Asian area. In the same year, the revaluation of the yen (+ 20% against the dollar) and the forced opening of the internal market, under US pressure, caused a sudden and strong reduction in trade surpluses.
According to allcountrylist, small and medium-sized enterprises, whose products had ceased to be more competitive, suffered such a backlash that in many cases they were shut down; the unemployment rate – an almost unknown phenomenon in the country up until the recent past – rose to 4.7% (1999), tending to the 5% threshold. As a singular contradiction, consumer prices were decreasing, but also domestic demand, which in any case turned massively to foreign products, more advantageous, sold in new supermarkets and discount of metropolitan suburbs. In addition, paradoxically, the country’s formidable financial wealth translated into a factor of weakness when the Japanese political and managerial class proved unable to manage it, thus causing a loss of confidence, both internally and internationally, in the basis of the heavy crisis that gripped the country at the end of the century. XX. The productive apparatus entered into recession, with the inevitable repercussions on the securities market: the Nikkei index of the Tokyo stock exchange, which had quoted up to 35,000 points in 1990, plummeted below 15,000 points in 1997. The new slowdown of the economics highlighted how Japan had been trapped in a deflationary grip: monetary policy had failed to stimulate the growth of private investment, while fiscal policy and public works spending programs encountered a limit to the expansion of the budget deficit and public debt (close, in 1997, to 100% of GNP). The progressive devaluation of the yen favored, if nothing else, exports, increasing the balance of the trade balance: this, however, began to feed mainly on the decrease in imports, damaging the largest partner of Japan and inducing them to urge structural reforms aimed at opening up the Japanese market and relaunching consumption, certainly to the detriment of full employment and social guarantees. Therefore, the very foundations of the “Japanese model”, protectionist and strongly controlled by the state, were questioned, which resulted in the myth of life-long employment, loyalty to the company, “work equal mission”. A close correlation can also be found between corporate restructuring (with thousands of jobs at risk) and phenomena such as the increase in the number of divorces or the collapse of the old family model. After the recession of 1997-98, the worst of the post-war period, in the first half of 1999 the Japanese economy recorded some signs of recovery: GNP returned to growth (+0.9 on an annual basis), the stock market rose and capital investments and private consumption increased.
But in the first months of 2001 a new serious crisis made the stock market reach the lowest limits of the Eighties. Furthermore, between 2000 and 2001, the zeroing of interest rates caused the bankruptcy of three of the top ten Japanese life insurance companies, unable to pay the promised reimbursements, and the slowdown of the United States economy, the largest trading partner. of the country, had a negative impact on exports. Public debt increased until it became the largest of all industrialized countries (around 130% of GDP). The Japanese have lost faith in their political class, sclerotic and corrupt to the point of having become complicit in some real estate and financial scandals, which shook the country between the two millennia. Despite this crisis, GDP growth resumed after 2002 (the increase in 2006 was 2.2%) and the Japanese economy appears to have emerged from the negative trend; in particular, the rates relating to consumer prices indicate the end of the deflationary spiral and a recovery in consumer confidence. The objective remains of reducing the budget deficit (which fell in 2007 to 3.8% after reaching 8% in 2002 and 2003) and of reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio, equal to 180%, the highest among the OECD countries. Unemployment, after peaking in 2002 (5.4%), remains at quite other levels (4% in 2007). However, Japan remains a rich country, the third world economic power (with purchasing power parity), after the United States and China: in 2008 the GDP was equal to 4,923,761 million US $. In the same year the income per capita was on average over US $ 38,559 (second to Qatar alone in Asia). Furthermore, according to the Human Development Index, Japan ranks 7th in the world ranking. The country is very advanced in the so – called e-economy, that is to say in the use of portals for Internet access (over 86 million users in 2005), and consequently e-commerce and banking operations are very widespread. online (electronic payments are now more numerous than those made in banks).