United Kingdom, Japan plunge into recession

There was a steady decline in the economies of these two nations throughout the course of 2023

By Albin Joseph

After a series of economic slowdowns, two of the world’s major economies, namely Japan and the United Kingdom, have plunged into recession recently. Japan has been displaced from its position as the third largest economy by Germany. The United Kingdom fell into recession at a critical juncture when the elections are just a few months away. This poses severe challenges to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose primary commitment to the nation was to promote the overall economic growth of the kingdom.

A recession is defined as two consecutive contractions in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. If there is a dip in GDP growth for a continuous six months, then it’s termed a Recession; Japan’s economy contracted by 0.4% and that of the UK by 0.3% in the last three months of 2023. There was a steady decline in the economies of these two nations throughout the course of 2023. From July to September 2023, Japan’s economy witnessed a de-growth of 3.3%, and the UK’s economy had a slump of 0.1%. Going by these numbers, it’s obvious that these two economies are under the grip of Recession.

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Jeremy Hunt

The cost of living in the UK has risen considerably, major sectors like manufacturing and construction have not been performing well, and the British Pound has been on a weakening trend against the US Dollar during the past six months. During 2023, the UK’s economy grew by a meagre 0.1%, which is the weakest growth ever since the 2009 financial crisis. All eyes are set on the next UK budget that UK Finance Minister (Chancellor of the Exchequer) Jeremy Hunt is to present in a couple of weeks. The budget is expected to bring in concrete measures to curb inflation and propel overall economic growth.

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Japan was relegated to fourth place in terms of GDP which totaled $4.2 trillion in 2023, whereas Germany assumed third place with its GDP estimated at $:4.5 trillion. A weaker Japanese yen is the major reason attributed to the slump in Japan’s economic growth. Moreover, there has been a slowdown in business, which leads to a lack of wage increments and layoffs. This lead to a fall in domestic demand, which made people curtail their expenses and hold on to their earnings.

Japan was relegated to fourth place in terms of GDP which totaled $:4.2 trillion in 2023.

A decline in population growth and an ageing population have affected the overall GDP, as well as the productivity of Japan. Traditionally, both Japanese and German economies were powered by small and medium-scale industries that were renowned for their high productivity. Of late, Japan’s productivity took a beating because of its shortage of qualitative labour, whereas Germany managed to keep its productivity intact by endorsing immigration, which led to overall population growth as well. By immigration, Germany’s population grew to 85 million in 2023. This not only made up for the low birthrate in Germany but also fueled the overall growth in GDP. Japan could overcome its labour shortage by endorsing immigration, but the country has its own reservations in the formulation of policies on this front.

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Though this recession wouldn’t last long, it’s quite obvious that whenever major economies plunge into recession, it will have a ripple effect across the world, at least in the short run. The Euro zone has revised its growth forecast for 2024 from 1.2% to 0.8%, and it remains to be seen whether other countries will follow suit.

The author is a Member of Loka Kerala Sabha