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Failure of Trickle-Down Abenomics Is Top Issue for Japan Voters

Prime Minister Kishida is touting a “new capitalism” but is short on details of how he’ll balance growth and more equitable distribution of economic gains.

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Illustration: Michelle Kwon for Bloomberg Businessweek

As Japan heads into a national election on Oct. 31, concerns over inequality are taking center stage. In a country that once defined itself by the slogan “100 million people, all middle class,” the pandemic has shined a spotlight on the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. It’s cemented the belief among many Japanese that the trickle-down economics of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and some of his predecessors has eroded living standards for the majority, while a few rode a wave of gains from soaring asset prices.

Fumio Kishida, who was sworn in as prime minister on Oct. 4 and is expected to lead his Liberal Democratic Party to victory in this month’s balloting, says Japan needs a “new capitalism” that emphasizes distribution of wealth as well as economic growth. But he’s been short on tangible policies for how the two objectives can be bridged.