Japan is supposed to be a nation of 120 million members of the middle class. But the results of a survey featured Flash magazine (May 1) indicate how economic disparities are increasingly proving otherwise. The magazine arranged for a survey of 3,638 male wage-earners with families, between the ages of 30 to 59, with income of less than 15 million yen per year. From this it extracted three "classes" : at the bottom, with annual income of 3 million yen, were men who received a monthly kozukai (allowance doled out by their wives) of just 12,000 yen, or about 400 yen a day, for lunch, cigarettes and recreation. Their health-related outlays were just 3,000 yen -- considerably less than their high-earning colleagues.
In the middle were those who earned just under 7 million yen annually, with an average monthly kozukai of 30,220 yen. For these men, higher-than-average outlays went to pachinko, horse racing and other forms of gambling, of which some may have served to supplement their income. Their monthly health-related outlays came to 4,334 yen.
And at the top were those earning 12 million per annum. Their average kozukai was 49,000 yen per month and of that they spent 15,000 yen per month on health-related purchases or activities, such as playing tennis.
To break down consumption by type, the subjects were asked how frequently they used their kozukai for various outlays, ranging between once a week to once a month (as multiple replies were included, the total exceeds 100%).
The largest monthly outlays were for eating out in restaurants, involving 74.8% in the upper income bracket (10 to 15 million yen), with 45.8% by those earning under 4 million yen. That was followed respectively -- keeping in mind the second figure in brackets indicates the lower income group -- by solitary exercise or sports, 35.2% (12.7%); gambling (horse racing, pachinko, lottery, etc.), 24.1% (12.3%); purchasing reading matter in bookshops, 21.2% (8.1%); purchasing clothing or articles of fashion in stores, 17.2% (5.7%); purchasing e-books online 14.9%, (6.9%); health maintenance (health foods, supplements, exercise goods, etc.), 14.6% (6.0%); buying fashion goods online, 14.1% (6.3%); study materials, 11.5% (4.2%); and purchases of DVDs at shops, 7.2% (3.0%).
Flash observes that even if the average wage earner with an annual income of 6.98 million yen gets a monthly "allowance" of 30,220 yen, because economic polarization has been progressing, the figures don't really mean much.
"Even when the stock market averages go up under 'Abenomics,' people's wages keep going down," well known economist Takuro Morinaga tells the magazine. "While most wage earners are feeling hard times, just a tiny portion of people are raking it in."
"Referred to as the 'super-affluent,' these are households with assets of 500 million yen and above. According to Nomura Research, they numbered some 73,000 households in 2015 -- up by about 20,000 households from just two years previous.
"Since many of those affluent people want to live in Tokyo's Minato Ward, that's why you see so many condominiums there selling for 500 to 1,000 million yen," he adds.
One resident of Tokyo's Minato Ward remarked that much of his high income came from buying and selling securities.
"I think it's a sign of the times that 'a person who doesn't work at a job' can become quite wealthy," he's quoted as saying. "There are some people who describe the Japan of today as being exactly like France on the eve of its revolution. The wealthy avoid paying taxes, and wallow in luxury from morning to night. In this society, it's the common people who must bear the tax burden. But while Japan's society is as divided as was France's before the revolution, the common people here are unaware of how well off the affluent have become. That's why I think there won't be a revolution in Japan."
Just to be on the safe side, Flash concludes, shouldn't efforts be made to push up those stingy monthly allotments and give the salarymen a break?© Japan Today