Is Downward Wage Flexibility the Primary Factor of Japan's Prolonged Deflation?


  • The authors wish to thank Ken Ariga, Ryo Kambayashi, participants at the Seventeenth Asian Economic Policy Review (AEPR) Conference and the Editors of the AEPR for their valuable comments. The remaining errors are solely our own. This research is supported by the Murata Science Foundation.


By using both macro- and micro-level data, this paper investigates how wages and prices evolved during Japan's lost two decades. We find that downward nominal wage rigidity was present in Japan until the late 1990s, but disappeared after 1998 as annual wages became downwardly flexible. Moreover, nominal wage flexibility may have contributed to Japan's relatively low unemployment rates. Although macro-level movements in nominal wages and prices seemed to be synchronized, such synchronicity is not observed at the industry level. Therefore, wage deflation does not seem to be a primary factor of Japan's prolonged deflation.