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Pinching Yennies

   Life just seems to be getting harder and harder for the beleaguered Japanese salaryman. According to a June 28th article in Mainabi News, the average monthly allowance for salarymen today has fallen to ¥38,457, the lowest since the asset price bubble burst in 1991. This is also the second lowest amount since the annual survey started being held in 1979.

   While salarymen in their fifties saw a modest gain in their monthly pocket money--up a miserable 56 yen to ¥41,331--those in their twenties and thirties found their allowance dropping by 2,743 yen to ¥38,480 and 2,976 yen to ¥37,093, respectively. Men in their forties had the most meager of allowances at only ¥36,924, a slight improvement of 469 yen over last year.

   Among the younger generation, single salarymen had an average monthly allowance of  ¥46,175 (down 4,219 yen from last year). Their counterparts with children, however, had a mere ¥29,552 in pocket money every month.

   The above graph provides some historical perspective. It shows the change in pocket money from 1979, when the average allowance was ¥30,600 to 2003 when it was ¥42,700. The most generous allowance (¥76,000) was seen in 1990 at the height of the bubble when the Nikkei average peaked at ¥39,915. The drop seen in 2003 is attributed to a number of factors: the start of the Iraq War, the SARS epidemic, restructuring in the banking industry, and the Nikkei average falling to ¥7,909.

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