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Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Japan's `lost decade' leaves many in dire straits


According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan's gini coefficient, a leading measure of inequality, stood at 0.314 in 2004, worse than Germany, France and Scandinavian nations but better than the US and Britain.

In 1969 Japan's gini coefficient was 0.316, above France's 0.414 at around the same time, where zero corresponds to perfect equality and 1.0 to perfect inequality.

On the face of it Japan's economy is in the best shape for a long time with the unemployment rate is at a seven-year low of 4.1 percent.

The number of people receiving jobless benefits declined to 628,000 in the fiscal year to March this year from 1.1 million four years earlier, out of a total population of about 127 million, according to government statistics.

However, not everyone is benefiting from falling unemployment, said Takuro Morinaga, an economics professor at Dokkyo University near Tokyo.

"Many specialists say the income gap has been rapidly widening," he said, noting that under Koizumi's reforms it has become easier for manufacturing companies to hire temporary workers.

"This means that many workers who used to be protected by the law can suddenly be fired, even though they are on lower incomes," Morinaga added.

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