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21% of young men stuck in poverty's slow lane

38 Comments

Two dollars a day is the internationally accepted poverty line. Below it, life is an unremitting, often losing struggle for mere survival.

By that standard, earnings of 2 million yen or less a year don’t really qualify as poverty, but in Japan, still a major economy despite its recent string of misfortunes, it represents life in a very slow lane, and according to Weekly Playboy (July 18), more than one young man in five (21.2%) is stuck there.

The magazine surveyed 1,000 men in their 20s concerning their incomes, their savings, and what (if anything) they spend their money on. Armed with this data, it sketches a portrait of a generation – incomplete, obviously, but revealing all the same. If the findings are accurate, almost exactly half (50.8%) of male Japanese in their 20s earn less than 4 million yen a year.

Asked if their earnings are inadequate, 67.7% say very much so. Add to that the 26.5% who say rather so, and you get more than 90% of the generation in its marriageable prime mired in financial straits. By way of contrast, only 6 of the 1,000 (0.6%) claim to be financially comfortable.

Savings? None, say 11.6%; 100,000 yen or less, say 19.5%. A quarter (24%) spend less than 10,000 yen a month; half (49.6%) spend less than 20,000 yen. This bodes ill for an economy in recession – if the exuberance of youth is powerless to spark consumption, what can spark it? Nothing can, and nothing is. Recession is a vicious circle.

To the extent that saving is possible on the meager pay from the unrewarding jobs that more and more young people must settle for nowadays, 51.8% say they put money aside for a vague “whatever comes up.” 33.2% save for hobbies; 30.7% for electronic equipment; 21.2% for old age; 17.5% for a house; 15.7% for marriage. Note how far behind “saving for old age” “saving for marriage” ranks. Young people today are old before they’ve had a chance to be young.

It takes all kinds. Weekly Playboy offers some thumbnail sketches. One is of a 27-year-old TV station executive who’s managed to save far more than anyone else profiled here – 8 million yen. “Ever since I was small I liked saving money,” he says. By the time he graduated from college he had 3 million yen in the bank – a rare feat. Then he started earning real money – “and my saving rate actually went down,” he says. In his line of work one needs to keep up appearances, which is unfortunate because otherwise, “I want nothing” – except to save. “I’d hoped to have 10 million yen by now.”

Then there’s the mostly unemployed comedian, also 27, earning 1.5 million yen a year and saving nothing. Which is fine with him. “When we have enough money my girlfriend and I plan to get married,” he says – “but I don’t want to get married, so I’ve no incentive to save.”

A 26-year-old fashion company executive has saved 1 million yen despite a low salary and no bonuses. He does have an incentive to save – he wants his kids, when he has them, to attend private schools. Why? “My girlfriend teaches at a public school, and she says the kids are absolutely rotten.”

Meanwhile, what do young women think of men pleading poverty? Weekly Playboy asks a few, and finds them more or less used to the situation by now. “To put it bluntly,” says one, “I don’t expect much, financially speaking, from men of my generation.” It’s not their fault, she hastens to add when accused of being unkind. “In this recession, nobody has very much.”

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments
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Five of my friends in Tokyo--three in their late 20s, two in their mid-30s--all had enough saved for a down payment on a condo and bought their own places in the past year. At the same time, another dozen friends in their late 20s are living pretty much hand to mouth, getting by on as little as 150,000 a month with full-time, regular employment... Definitely a big split, with most of the savers in IT-related fields, and most of the stragglers working in service and health care jobs...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I feel sorry for these people. It is a horrible situation. I see a lost definition.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It doesn't exactly say how much these people earn except for the 1.5miliion for the 'comedian'. I wonder what their monthly budget is. I know plenty of Japanese people who complain they have no money, no saving but yet, buy the most outrageous things like cars, designer bags, clothing, go out to eat... A little perspective on their salary/budget would be nice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Tis the widening of the haves and have-nots - gotta thank that idiot Koizumi and his fascination with Bush Jr. and his policies. I wonder if the people of Japan will ever realize how truly evil Koizumi was/is.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I suppose It is possible to survive on 1万 a month. They won't be healthy or happy, but hopefully at least not in Tokyo. Heck, there are actually families that live on 20万 a month.

I hope something turns up for these people soon. Unfortunately the unemployment situation isn't even close to ending...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The magazine surveyed 1,000 men in their 20s...almost exactly half (50.8%) of male Japanese in their 20s earn less than 4 million yen a year

Is this a random sampling? if it is, surely a good percentage of these young men are either still in education or have only just joined the ranks of the unemployed, ie on dogsbody wages? Why would anyone be surprised that the youngest section of the male workforce are earning less than older males? And why are young females being ignored?

As for savings, if you've just come out of studenthood, aren't you lucky merely not to have an overdraft?

A 26-year-old fashion company executive has saved 1 million yen despite a low salary and no bonuses.

An 'executive' with low salary and no bonuses? An 'executive' at 26? Is JT getting its translations done on the cheap again?

“When we have enough money my girlfriend and I plan to get married,” he says – “but I don’t want to get married, so I’ve no incentive to save.”

Then TELL HER, Casanova. You're enjoying a relationship under false pretenses.

Sorry, but this whole article seems a bit over the top to me. At the best of times no one expects 20-year-olds to be top earners, and we are in a recession.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

How many of these guys are still living with mommy and daddy? Not like they need to pay rent. This is the excuse that many companies give with female wages - they don't pay rent, bills.... so why pay them more. Have to say, i can see the logic in it but for those who ARE supporting themselves, they need a decent wage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Who responsible for the accuracy of these given figures , numbers...? most my friends they are depth in the poverty ...they are good in the situation no savings , but spend what they earns...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is the excuse that many companies give with female wages - they don't pay rent, bills.... so why pay them more.

The daughter of a friend of mine was ecstatic to leave home and be independent once she left university and started working, well able to pay rent etc....her parents were pleased for her, too....then her boss called her in and demanded to know why she wasn't living at home - did she have issues with her parents? What was 'wrong' with her? (Her job involved handling large sums of other people's money, and it seems that if she were paying her own rent she might be 'open to temptation'. That's a gross insult in my book, but now she's back at home and banking her rent money, the alternative being unemployment.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Cost cutting, outsourcing, abundant manpower in emerging economies playing vital role in downgrading the salaries. If someone don't agree with low pay, the post will be filled certainly by anyone next in the queue. These factors are applicable in manufacturing and IT industries. Service sector, which is always underestimated in Japan still has a room to grow and people with proper skill have good opportunity to shake the stagnation.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What is the solution?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This article was a bit difficult to read - style and info-wise. There are many factors that need to be addressed in order to see the whole picture: residence, family, education, etc, etc.

One is of a 27-year-old TV station executive who’s managed to save far more than anyone else profiled here – 8 million yen. “Ever since I was small I liked saving money,” he says. By the time he graduated from college he had 3 million yen in the bank – a rare feat.

How much was his allowance? 10万 a month? This example speaks more of his parents' generation than of his own. A kid who just got out of college with 3 million in the bank is a very rare case. I'm sure he didn't earn that from his izakaya part-time job.

I want to see these statistics compared with other countries - how many of the men in their 20s in Europe or in the States have savings and earn more than that. It's interesting to make a comparison. Without that this article is just poor/dangerous journalism and just another example of random statistics.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow Cleo!! So this guy basically threatened to fire her if she didn't live at home?? Is that legal? Good that she's smart enough to bank it but shocking that the company even asked her about such a thing!! open to temptation?? Sexist pig as I doubt he says that to the men who live on their own or the men who pay the rent and look after their families!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Then TELL HER, Casanova. You're enjoying a relationship under false pretenses.

Anger management dear. Or, stay of the gin, aye. Jeez.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Anger management dear. Or, stay of the gin, aye. Jeez.

Got it in for Cleo at all YY??! You are never going to forgive the gin joke are you??!

This survery seems a bit silly to me. If you look at any new graduates these days in real terms not only are they not making any savings they are often massively in debt too. The low salaries I go along with to a point, but when you consider that 4 million yen is knocking on around 30,000 GBP, it is not that much of a stretch to imagine a similar situation in the UK too. Non-graduates fare even worse in the longer term.

The difference comes in potential for the future. With the labour laws here I don`t see potential for a lot of these guys for the future to get onto better paying, more secure employment ladders, degree or no degree.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Also add in, they don't have student loans like many grads in the US, Canada, UK...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

tmarie: But many of them do, especially those whose families really stretched to get them into a good school. They're just called "scholarships" here, rather than loans. You have to pay them back.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some do but I don't think it is as widespread as it is home. Like I said, I would like to see the salary and budgets of these people before I feel a sob story for them. I do think that people need a living wage but I have a hard time feeling for the men when the women here have it so much worse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Miamum: Not when I've seen and worked with the results of the two things she proposed go together, no.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

very sad indeed. However ... the statistic about "half (50.8%) of Japanese men earn less than 4million¥ a year" had me thinking a bit. I think for a guy (or girl) in their 20s, making up to 4 million yen a year is pretty standard in western terms. of course under 2 million is rubbish, but from 2.5m-4m is pretty ... not bad? Pretty standard even? no?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Eikaiwa workers make less than 4 million a year and many save money, travel, pay off loans... Patrick, we know what the solution is for that, don't we? Off to work ladies!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The average salary of 34 year old men I read somewhere is around 3.7 million so the 4 for guys in their 20's is clearly off. All males need is to boycott marriage, childbirth and rearing by pleading poverty - haha that is guaranteed to wake the bureaucrats.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“When we have enough money my girlfriend and I plan to get married,” he says – “but I don’t want to get married, so I’ve no incentive to save.”

WOW. What a total jerk. I feel sorry for the girl that he is leading on and just generally jerking around. Poor poor girl.

And seriously? I find it hard to save on 18man/mo. Impossible if I want to eat well and pay rent/ketai/health insurance/electricity. Actually, after that there's basically nothing left, and I have about as cheap a place as you can get in Tokyo. How in the world do people do it on 1man? Unless they are using the money of others (for rent/food/bills), and I don't think that qualifies. Do they mean 1man after rent? Even if you never use the tv/ac, you still have water and health insurance, which will eat up most of that 1man.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lizz, they can get married. Just not to your average Japanese women who expects to be able to stay home once the ring goes on. Plenty of j women out there that do want to work. They guys just need to find them!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There was a JT article about a year ago that put 1/3 of 15-34 yr olds in part time, temp, contract positions - the vast majority of whom couldn't make ends meet from their job income alone. So the 20% poverty figure doesn't seem that far off.

Cost cutting, outsourcing, abundant manpower in emerging economies playing vital role in downgrading the salaries. If someone don't agree with low pay, the post will be filled certainly by anyone next in the queue.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

tmarie - I don't think he threatened to actually fire her, but it was quite clear that a (female) person paying rent would not be trusted handling sums of money - she would be given the proverbial 'desk by the window', chances of advancement nil and general conditions bad enough that she would choose unemployment herself (that way the company gets out of a 'wrongful dismissal' charge). Apparently male employees who pay rent don't get 'tempted', for some reason..... if employment were a bit easier to come by, I think she would have told the sexist little comb-over where to put his job.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why on earth shoudl a woman work if she doesn't want to. The man has the responsibility of providing for the family even if that means taking two jobs. The woman has enough work looking after the home and family. Society should not pressure women to work.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

True about health insurance. You could manage easily in the rural US living by yourself minus a car or entertainment not necessary to survival.. This includes food, some utilities (small fees for electricity, water, sewage and garbage etc) and all household/personal goods. Van, tent or car living on junk land ( on payments ) is also a better than nothing, cheap way to live....but I don't think that was behind this story either.

And seriously? I find it hard to save on 18man/mo. Impossible if I want to eat well and pay rent/ketai/health insurance/electricity. Actually, after that there's basically nothing left, and I have about as cheap a place as you can get in Tokyo. How in the world do people do it on 1man? Unless they are using the money of others (for rent/food/bills), and I don't think that qualifies. Do they mean 1man after rent? Even if you never use the tv/ac, you still have water and health insurance, which will eat up most of that 1man.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Steve: Im sorry but we dont live in that kind of era anymore. I would GLADLY be the only one working to support the family but unfortunately in this day and age some people just don't have any choice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Papigiulio; work harder, think out of the box and be commited to being the best in work ethics and values. May take time to see results but if you stick to it you will get rewarded financially and gain job satisfaction. It may take a huge amount of effort as it does with my job, ofetn 7 days a week but at last my wife can commit herself to th family without concern about paying for the bills.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

4 million yen seems pretty decent imo..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Steve..that "man must work 7 days so woman stays home" stuff is just you feeding your ego to say your wife stays home. No one should have to work 7 days a week. People are human and need rest and an outlet outside of the house.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here's an idea for guys; don't get married! You'll save thousands, if not millions of dollars.

It really is just a mechanism for women to gain financial security for the rest of their lives. Even if you divorce, you still have to pay your ex-wife. I'm not saying don't have relationships, but there really is no tangible reason to marry. It's merely a social construct that historically benefits a woman more than a man. You can still have kids too. There's nothing in the law that says we have to be married to have children. In fact, if you do have kids, their are laws to make you pay child support should you separate from your partner. So it's not as if raising children "in sin" is going to be any detriment to them.

You can still raise children without that magical piece of paper "the marriage certificate." This is not to advocate fathers abandoning their kids and doing nothing more than paying mere child support, but it's more of an effort to say that men needn't worry themselves to death that they "can't afford to get married." It's such a prevalent notion in Japanese society and it creates misery for many young men here. Marriage is expensive. Don't get married and you eliminate the expense. I'm not saying I'm absolutely against marriage, but unless a guy can afford it, I don't think it's a great idea.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

greapper, I was making over 4 million a year here in my 20s, which was enough for a single guy. However, my girlfriend at the time expressed concerns about getting married and starting a family on that income. Now she is my wife, and I have a kid. I'm glad I paid attention to what she said because now I make more and I need more.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

There's something wrong with this poll. They say 2'000'000 yen is almost poverty. Is living in Japan so expensive, that $2'100 per month is not enough? So, how can 50% keep within 10'000 yen? 70% possess savings in excess of 100'000 yen. How can they be unsatisfied with their income, given they have enough money to put it by? As for 4'000'000 yen ($4'200 per month), it's rather a sum for a young and unexperienced worker, don't you think so?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The picture for Japan grows darker every day. The current generation are lining up to be the first truly poor generation since the war in Japan. And that spells disaster as this will ripple across society in declining consumption and a spiral of the economy farther down the drain. The complacency that seems to go with this, will certainly not give us a generation of people who will reinvent Japan. More likely, just a generation who will exist in it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Steve - the 1950s called, asking for you back. Both the husband and wife have THE SAME responsibilities in supporting their family these days. If both parents are working in jobs that are flexible in allowing them to go to pick kids up after school, etc., the family will be more financially stable than just you busting your ass 7 days a week.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"more than one young man in five is stuck there"

That means more than one young woman in five is going to have to work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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