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Lost Decade


The term “Lost Decade” is often used to refer to the 1990s period in Japan during which the country’s economy experienced a prolonged period of stagnation and severe economic and financial difficulties. It was characterized by a sharp slowdown in economic growth, a critical banking crisis, and deflationary pressures. The term is now used more generally to describe any decade-long period during which an economy drastically underperforms or remains stagnant.


The phonetics of the phrase “Lost Decade” is: /lɔːst dɪˈkeɪd/.

Key Takeaways

  1. The “Lost Decade” typically refers to the economic slump that Japan suffered from 1991 to 2001. It was characterized by stagnant growth, deflation, and policy mistakes that exacerbated the economic downturn.
  2. The root causes for the Lost Decade included the bursting of Japan’s economic bubble in the early 1990s, a financial system that couldn’t cope with the fallout, insufficient government policy interventions, and an ageing population that reduced domestic consumption.
  3. The Lost Decade has had long-lasting effects on Japan’s economy and society, leading to a prolonged period of economic stagnation and a decades-long struggle to re-ignite economic growth. It serves as a cautionary tale for other economies to prevent asset bubbles and take proactive steps to tackle economic downturns.


The term “Lost Decade” is significant in business and finance as it refers to a period of economic stagnation or decline in which traditional means of stimulating growth seem ineffective. The phrase was originally used to describe the Japanese economy in the 1990s when, despite low-interest rates and increased government spending, the economy stagnated due to a combination of an asset bubble burst, bank failures, and resultant long-term deflation. While the term is historically associated with Japan, it can be applied to any prolonged period of economic sluggishness in other countries or regions. Understanding the Lost Decade can provide insights into managing economic downturns, and avoiding the factors that can lead to prolonged economic depression.


The term “Lost Decade” is used in finance and economics to describe a period of ten years during which an economy or market does not grow or drastically slows in growth. It’s used to depict an extended period of stagnant economic progress, often identified by indicators such as slow economic growth, deflation, high unemployment, and economic recession. Although the term “Lost Decade” may sound exclusively pessimistic, it serves several quite significant purposes in the world of economics and finance. Primarily, it is used as a tool to analyze and understand historical economic downturns and the factors that led to them. This knowledge can be used to develop strategies to avoid similar situations in the future or to mitigate their effects. Additionally, it aids economists, policymakers, and financial analysts in gauging the long-term sustainability of a particular economic system or model, and informs decision-making on potential structural changes or economic reforms.


1. Japan’s “Lost Decade”: Perhaps the most famous example of a “lost decade” comes from Japan in the 1990s. After the asset price bubble burst in Japan at the end of the 1980s, the country entered a period of economic stagnation and deflation, with growth rates far below the levels achieved in previous decades. Some argue that Japan actually experienced a “Lost Score” – two decades of economic stagnation from 1990 to 2010.2. United States (2000-2010): The first decade of the 2000s has been referred to as a lost decade for the U.S. because, for the first time since the Great Depression, the country ended the decade with a net loss in jobs. Additionally, the stock market’s performance was the worst it had been for any decade in its history, significantly affecting income and retirement savings for millions of Americans.3. Eurozone (2008-to date): After the 2008 financial crisis, some countries in the Eurozone experienced years of economic stagnation or recession. Countries such as Italy and Greece, heavily impacted by the sovereign debt crisis, have often been referred to as experiencing a “lost decade.” Despite efforts from the European Central Bank and individual countries’ measures, economic growth has been slow and unemployment rates remain high in many parts of the Eurozone.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Lost Decade?

The Lost Decade refers to a period of economic stagnation or decline that lasts for at least a decade. Though it initially referred to Japan’s economic struggles in the 1990s, it can be used to describe the economic conditions of any country or region experiencing a similar situation.

What caused the Lost Decade in Japan?

The Lost Decade in Japan was caused by a variety of factors including an asset price bubble burst, overinvestment, non-performing loans within the banking system, and ineffective government policies.

How did the Lost Decade impact Japan’s economy?

The Lost Decade left Japan with slow economic growth, deflation, and high unemployment rates. Even though the Japanese economy was still among the largest in the world, its rate of growth was significantly slowed down.

Can a Lost Decade happen in other countries?

Yes, a Lost Decade can happen in any country. It generally happens when the rate of economic growth slows down or declines for a prolonged period, often due to poor economic policies, financial crises, or other economic disruptions.

What lessons can be learned from a Lost Decade?

Lessons from a Lost Decade can include the importance of effective economic policies, the dangers of asset bubbles, and the need for a healthy and robust banking system. It also emphasizes the significance of effective government intervention and policies to stimulate the economy and prevent long-term stagnation.

How can a country recover from a Lost Decade?

Recovering from a Lost Decade requires a combination of effective policies, which could include economic reforms, creation of more employment opportunities, addressing non-performing loans within the banking system, and more generally, injecting dynamism into the economy.

How does a Lost Decade affect businesses?

During a Lost Decade, businesses may experience lower demand for their products or services, reduced investment incomes, increase in non-performing loans, and a tightening of credit conditions. Businesses will need to pivot and adapt to survival and recovery strategies to weather the situation.

What actions can policymakers take to prevent a Lost Decade?

Policymakers can prevent a Lost Decade by implementing effective monetary and fiscal policies, managing economic bubbles, ensuring financial regulations are enforced, and promoting financial literacy among consumers and investors.

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