Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hails from a wealthy political dynasty, has drawn public criticism over a gaffe he made in the Diet Friday, which was quickly pounced on as evidence by some that he lacks real knowledge about the plight of the middle class.
During a Lower House Budget Committee meeting, Abe attempted to explain why average real wages, or workers’ price-adjusted earnings, have declined since he took office in December 2012. In his explanation, he cited “the Abes,” an imaginary family where the husband earns ¥500,000 a month and the wife, who recently began a part-time job, makes ¥250,000.
The outcry over the figures was almost immediate on social networking services, with numerous users bashing Abe and calling such salaries unthinkably high — particularly for part-timers.
According to the latest monthly survey by the labor ministry, the average monthly wage for a part-time worker, including nonregular extra payments, was a mere ¥96,638 at a company with five workers or more in November. The figure is just 38.7 percent of the wage Abe cited for a part-timer.
For a full-time worker, the average monthly wage was ¥352,094, again far lower than the ¥500,000 salary for the husband Abe cited.
“¥250,000 a month for a part-timer? Impossible. (I earn) ¥150,000 working six days a week with no breaks and with overtime work. In addition, social security (premiums) are taken away from that,” Twitter user @van_jin wrote Saturday.
The furor over Abe’s comments at the Diet drowned out his larger point — that if a housewife starts working a part-time job with a salary lower than that of her husband, the average wage per worker will decrease although the family’s total income will rise.
“When the economy recovers and jobs increase, it’s possible the average wage per worker will become lower because more people start working part-time jobs,” Abe said.
“If I earn ¥500,000 and my wife earns ¥250,000, (the total family income) is ¥750,000. But the average will be lower because two people are now working,” he said.
Still, if the furious reaction online is any indication, many believe that Abe, the grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, simply does not know how much money an average family makes since he was raised in a privileged, elite environment.
“He is out of touch with the realities of the common people. Maybe you can’t ask too much from a hereditary politician who was born with a sliver spoon in his mouth,” said Twitter user Yoshihiro Kagoshima, who tweeted from his @kgssazen account on Saturday.