Author Karin Amamiya gives her views on the OWS movement in the monthly media magazine Tsukuru (December) and finds many similarities between Japan and the U.S. As opposed to a U.S. poverty rate of 15.1 percent, Japan’s is over 16 percent. The number of welfare recipients in Japan has shot past 2 million, and percentage of those in the work force holding nonregular jobs is at its highest level ever — 38.7 percent.
Last Thursday, a five-page article in Shukan Bunshun (Dec. 8) gave one of the gloomiest indications yet that the prolonged recession has had a pronounced effect on the incomes of Japan’s wage earners.
According to business consultant Masao Kitami, during 1997-2007, total wages declined by ¥20 trillion. “When people say Japan is becoming a society with a widening income gap,” he writes, “I tell them, we’ve descended into a ‘low-wage society.'”
Based on surveys of major corporations belonging to Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), Kitami provides the latest data showing significant drops in wages between 2007-2010. The declines in the greater Tokyo region — where workers typically receive the highest remuneration in Japan — have been particularly steep. For males in their 50s, for example, the mean annual compensation dropped from ¥5.58 million in 2007 to ¥4.81 million in 2010. After withholdings, monthly take-home pay by younger salaried workers may be less than ¥200,000.
Kitami warns that once the annual incomes of males in their 50s living in Japan’s three main urban areas plummets below ¥5 million, the current social welfare model, based on a nuclear family composed of husband, wife and two children, is in danger of collapse.