Workers earning less, becoming more frugal

The households of salaried workers in Japan spent less in fiscal 1999 than they did in the previous year for a record third straight yearly fall, the Management and Coordination Agency said in a preliminary report released Friday.

Wage-earning households spent an average 345,121 yen per month in the fiscal year, down 1.3 percent in real terms from the previous year.

In March alone, spending by salaried workers’ households fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier and a seasonally adjusted 4 percent from February to an average 367,370 yen.

Wage-earning households account for roughly 60 percent of household spending.

In fiscal 1999, their income decreased an inflation-adjusted 2.5 percent to 570,756 yen, the largest fall on record.

Their bonuses shrank a real 7.7 percent, but the incomes of their spouses rose 1.8 percent for the first increase in three years.

The disposable income of such households shrank by a record 2.1 percent in real terms in the fiscal year to an average of 481,578 yen.

Spending by salaried workers’ households on clothing and footwear fell 1.8 percent and on foods by 2.4 percent. These two categories registered their ninth consecutive year of decline.

Spending on education rose 0.4 percent and on housing by 2.5 percent.

In March, spending on foods fell 2.2 percent from a year earlier. , on transport and telecommunications by 11.2 percent, and on education by 3.7 percent.

Spending increased for goods and services such as housing renovation, books and electricity charges.

The average income of salaried workers’ households in March fell a real 3.5 percent to 494,231 yen for the ninth consecutive month of decline.

The income of their spouses fell a real 0.9 percent from a year earlier, while that of family members other than the main breadwinners and their spouses dropped 19.2 percent

Disposable income dropped 2.7 percent to 413,550 yen.

The propensity to consume, or the ratio of household spending to disposable income, came to an index reading of 70.8 in March, against the 1995 base of 100, down from February’s 71.5.

Tokyo CPI declines

Consumer prices in Tokyo fell 0.9 percent in April from the previous year, marking a record eighth straight month of decline, the Management and Coordination Agency said in a preliminary report released Friday.

The consumer price index for Tokyo’s 23 wards — closely watched as an early indicator of nationwide price movements — came to 101.1 against a base of 100 set in 1995, the agency said.

The agency also said the nationwide CPI for all fiscal 1999, which ended March 31, was 102, down 0.5 percent and the first drop in four years.

It was only the second time the nationwide CPI has fallen on a fiscal year basis, following a 0.1 percent drop in 1995.

The fall was largely attributed to falling prices of fresh foods and durable goods.

Officials said the decline in Tokyo consumer prices in April was due primarily to decreases in prices of fresh vegetables, fish and marine products.

Prices of fresh vegetables dropped 14.4 percent, while the cost of fresh fish and marine products fell 3.7 percent.

An Economic Planning Agency official also attributed April’s decline to a standstill in personal consumption and the yen’s appreciation against the dollar, which resulted in lower import prices.

In the month prior, however, Tokyo consumer prices increased 0.2 percent for the second monthly rise.

The EPA official said the price trend “continues to be stable.”

Excluding the prices of fresh foods and other perishable items, Tokyo’s CPI for April stood at 101.3, down 0.5 percent from the year before, marking the seventh consecutive month of decline. The index rose 0.2 percent from the previous month, however.

Service sector prices fell 0.4 percent in April from a year earlier for the second consecutive month of decline.

The decline in the services sector as blamed on sales campaigns at fast-food outlets.

In March, the nationwide CPI for all goods and services came to 101.5, down 0.5 percent from the year before for a record seven months of fall.

Overall prices fell primarily as a result of price dips in fresh fruit, which fell 9.7 percent, and durable household goods, which fell 5.5 percent.

Consumer prices in March were up 0.2 percent from the previous month for the first rise in five months.

Excluding prices of perishable foods, the nationwide CPI for March came to 101.7, down 0.3 percent from a year earlier for the sixth straight month of decline. The index was up 0.1 percent from February.