Japanese Men’s Allowances Lowest Since 1982 as Living Costs Rise

Japanese salarymen’s allowances fell to the lowest in 33 years even as the cost of lunch surged, showing the pinch felt by workers that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is counting on to drive a recovery in the economy.

Monthly spending money, often set by wives who control family budgets, dropped to 37,642 yen ($306), down 4.9 percent from last year, according to Shinsei Bank Ltd., a Tokyo-based lender whose data go back to 1979. Salarymen spent 601 yen for lunch on average, up from 541 yen, reflecting higher costs of food and a sales-tax hike, the bank said.

The cut in allowances is bad news for Abe’s effort to end a deflationary mindset that has held back Japan’s economy. With food prices rising, household budgets are under pressure. When cutbacks must be made, husbands’ allowances are often the first to be reduced and the last to recover, said Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

“It’s tough being a Japanese salaryman,” said Miyamae, whose allowance hasn’t risen for at least the past few years. “The sales-tax hike and inflation are putting households on the defensive. It will take at least another year for men to see an increase in their allowances.”

Older salarymen saw the biggest reductions. While allowances for men in their 20s and 30s remained about the same as last year, those for salarymen in their 40s and 50s dropped by more than 4,000 yen, as the cost of raising children and education weighed on household finances, Shinsei said.

Salarymen spend an average 4,954 yen on a night out of drinking and tend to go out 2.4 times a month, according to the survey. Lunch is their largest expense, it said.

Japan’s overall consumer prices rose 2.9 percent in the fiscal year ended March 2015, the most since 1990, according to statistics bureau. Wages haven’t kept up with rising living costs since April 2013.

The survey was conducted April 15-17.

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