Bills, bills, bills. The squeeze comes from all directions: costs for the kids' schooling; mortgage on the house; medical costs. To make matters worse, company salaries have been cut, and summer and winter bonuses have been slashed or eliminated altogether.
What to do? For many middle-aged wage salarymen, reports Nikkan Gendai (July 29), it means swallowing pride and asking their wives to take part-time work.
"'Didn't you tell me you knew how to operate a cash register at a supermarket?' my husband asked me," says a certain Mrs Yoshino (a pseudonym). "'You're pulling my leg, right?' I told him."
But her 46-year-old husband, who's employed in the IT sector, was serious.
Earlier this year, her husband's father had required extended hospitalization, and after his discharge, more outlays had been needed to modify his house so that it would be "barrier free."
"So I'd really be grateful if you'd take a part-time job," he told her. Their child's entrance examinations for high school were coming up, and he didn't want to pinch pennies on schooling costs.
Previously, every six months the couple would discuss how to budget his twice-yearly bonus. Five years ago, the current situation would have been unthinkable. But then two years ago came the "Lehman Shock," and his employer, to avoid personnel layoffs, first halted payment of the summer and winter bonuses and then began cutting salaries. His annual income fell by 3 million yen.
Last winter the couple tallied up what they were paying for the family car -- a German import. With taxes, insurance, parking costs, gasoline, etc, the figure exceeded 400,000 yen. But if they were to get rid of it, the neighbors would almost certainly start gossiping. So it's still in the garage, but seldom gets driven.
"The generation of former OLs who married and became housewives during the Bubble Economy are extremely status conscious," explains Atsuko Okano, a marriage counselor. "To them, there's nothing more humiliating than having to go out and work part time."
It seems an old adage that goes "Kane no kireme ga en no kireme" (When the money runs out, then so does the marriage) may indeed be true.
Another salaryman, a Mr Yanagida, age 45, was harangued by his mother-in-law when she found out that her daughter had begun working part time in a coffee shop.
His wife had taken the job after his employer had halted bonus payments, on the condition that "I won't have to work around here, so the people we know won't see me." So four days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. she took the train three stops further away from the city. Her monthly take-home pay was around 70,000 yen, but her mother demanded she quit. "How can you look your child in the eye?" asked the mother.
Mr Yanagida cut back on his own pocket money, but eventually found himself digging into savings so that his wife would have her own spending money -- most of which went to buying DVDs of weepy Korean dramas. And all the while, expenses keep mounting -- for their child's education, for looking after his aging parents, and so on.
Be as it may, many married women willingly and wholeheartedly do hold down jobs and contribute to their family's support. The aforementioned Mrs Yanagida ought to swallow her pride and emulate them, Nikkan Gendai concludes.© Japan Today