After its defeat in World War II, Japan suffered widespread poverty, but then it witnessed unprecedented economic growth after the 1950s, which led to the development of a broad, affluent urban middle class. Social inequality and domestic poverty were therefore virtually nonissues in Japan until the mid-2000s, when they were first highlighted in the media and in academic reports. In 2009, the relative income poverty rate after tax and transfers reached 16 percent (the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] average was 11 percent), with a Gini coefficient of 0.336 (OECD average, 0.316). As these numbers exclude household assets, they distort the situation in Japan, which still is a relatively wealthy nation with a large middle class, a high life expectancy, and good infrastructure. ...

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