With all the talk in recent years about rising economic inequality in the U.S., I was curious to learn more about what the situation was like in Japan. In researching the issue, I came across an interesting site called heikin shūnyū ("average income", sorry Japanese only) which answers a lot of the questions people have about income and wealth in Japan. I will be translating some of my findings here, so check in on this post from time to time.
Ten million yen a year
The first thing that caught my eye was the following:
Take-home pay for someone earning ¥10,000,000 a year (or $84,873 at today's lousy exchange rate) amounts to about ¥7~8,000,000 ($59,000~68,000). Incidentally, only 3-4% earns over ten million yen a year. 3-4% of what is not clarified. I assume it is 3-4% of those who are working and earning an income.
According to another great site, Trading Economics, the labor force participation rate is 59.9%, giving Japan a workforce of 63,660,000 people. So, if I have calculated correctly, about two million people in Japan earn over 10 million yen a year. That would put them squarely in the top 5%, something I find hard to believe as an income of ¥10,000,000 isn't what I'd call "rich". (See below for the actual stats.)
How much money would you have to earn for you to feel like you're really raking it in? Minna no Koe ("Everyone's Voice") an online opinion survey run, I believe, by DoCoMo, asked this very question. More than 32,000 people took part in the survey and the results are as follows:
1. Over ¥10 million 48.8%
2. Over ¥8 million 19.3%
3. Over ¥5 million 12.0%
4. Over ¥20 million 6.3%
5. Over ¥100 million 3.9%
Interestingly, if you look at the answers of those still in their teens, "over ¥5 million a year" drops from third place to sixth and ¥20 million rises to third place. The second most common answer for those in their twenties, however, is "over ¥5 million a year", reflecting perhaps the harsh reality of working life in Japan today.
Who's Making What
In 2010, 45,520,000 people in Japan received a "salary", the largest portion, or 18.1% (8.23 million people), earning between ¥3,000,000 ~ ¥3,999,999 a year. The next largest group, or 17.6% or wage-earners (about 8 million people) earned between ¥2,000,000 ~ ¥2,999,999.
Among men, the largest wage group (19.5% of the total) earned between ¥4,000,000 ~ ¥4,999,999. 26.8% of women earned more than ¥1 million and less than ¥2 million.
¥4,000,000 ~ ¥4,999,999 14.3%
¥5,000,000 ~ ¥5,999,999 9.4%
¥7,000,000 ~ ¥7,999,999 3.9%
¥10,000,000 ~ ¥14,999,999 2.8%
¥15,000,000 ~ ¥19,999,999 0.6%
¥2,500,000 ~ 0.2%
Those earning over ¥10,000,000 account for less than 5% of all wage earners, or about 2.27 million people.
Kakusa Shakai (格差社会, "gap-widening society") is a term you're sure to hear on TV when the discussion is about the economic in Japan. Like America, Japan has seen growing income inequality over the past few decades, though it hasn't been as conspicuous. Rather than go into the reasons for the rise in inequality, I would like to note that as of 2010, there were some 800,000 people who could be counted among the "well-to-do", namely, those earning over ¥20 million a year. By comparison, there were more than 20 million Japanese living in poverty.
In my next update, I'll try to look more closely into the stats of poverty in Japan.