After two decades of coasting along, Japan began experimenting in 2012 with “Abenomics”, a combination of fiscal stimulus and monetary expansion. The initial results included a small increase in GDP, a large rise in the stock market and significant depreciation of the yen. In the year to mid-2014, growth of wealth fell from 2% to 1% in yen terms, and the yen stabilized, so that wealth also grew 1% when measured in USD.
Despite falling behind over the years in rankings according to wealth per adult, Japan still ranks second after the USA in terms of aggregate wealth. It began the new century with wealth per adult of USD 191,900. Average wealth today is 14% higher in US dollar terms, but only 1% higher when measured in Japanese yen. This stagnation is due to the combined effects of the poor stock market performance until recently, low interest rates and investment income, a housing market that has been on a downward trend since the 1990s and a reduced saving rate.
The decline in property values means that financial wealth is now the major component of household wealth, making up 61% of gross assets. Debts have been declining and are modest by international standards, at 14% of total assets.
Japan has a more equal wealth distribution than any other major country, as reflected in a Gini coefficient of 63%. Together with its high average wealth, this relative equality means that few individuals have assets below USD 10,000. The proportion of the population with wealth above USD 100,000 is over six times the global average. At the turn of the century, Japan was a close second to the USA regarding the number of residents in the top 10% and top 1% of global wealth holders. Japan still retains second place, but the gap has widened considerably.