Pity the poor Japanese salaryman. After more than three years of growth policies, the poor guy’s average monthly “pocket money” remains just one round of drinks above a record low, according to the Financial Times.
Asia Unhedged can’t decide who to feel sorry for more, the salarlyman or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who’s Abenomics strategy of a $2.5 trillion quantitative easing program and an all-out campaign to convince companies to raise wages, has left the average working man with just 37,873 yen ($370) per month to spend on lunch, drinking, smoking, coffee and any hobbies he can eke out of the cash left over.
Of the three worst years for salaryman pocket money, two have been logged under Abe’s supposedly reflationary regime. According to the FT, the average worker had more than twice that sum to play with in the last 1980s. The numbers are the latest in a data series that goes back to 1979 and tracks the daily spending of Japan’s white-collar workhorses.
In addition to this year’s wage negotiations between labor unions and companies resulting in lackluster results, the average Japanese household is holding tightly onto its money in amidst an era of economic uncertainty, a rising yen and falling stock prices.
The 2016 average represents a very small 231-yen increase over the average pocket money recorded in the previous year. The absolute nadir of the pocket money survey came in 1982, a year when the monthly average came in at just 34,100 yen. The 3,773 yen difference between then and now would cover a very modest array of drinks and snacks at a salaryman’s favorite izakaya bar. But Abenomics, according to the Shinsei data, has even failed to goad the white-collared workers into the pub: the average number of drinking sessions per month has edged down from 2.4 last year to 2.3 in 2016.
However, salaried Japanese women in their twenties proved a bright spot as they are willing to spend on gourmet lunching.
As recent entrants to the Shinsei pocket money report, young “salarywomen” outspend their male counterparts on lunch by about 45% — the difference, in culinary terms, between a stodgy bowl of noodles and a delicately balanced bento lunchbox.