• Bloomberg


Salarymen’s allowances have fallen to their lowest level in 33 years even as the cost of lunch has 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, down 4.9 percent from last year, according to a survey conducted April 15 to 17 by Shinsei Bank Ltd., a Tokyo-based lender whose data go back to 1979.

Salarymen spent ¥601 for lunch on average, up from ¥541, reflecting higher costs of food and the consumption tax hike, the bank said.

The cut in allowances is bad news for Abe’s effort to end the deflationary mindset that has held back the 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 consumption 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 as the cost of raising children and education weighed on household finances, Shinsei said.

Salarymen spend an average of ¥4,954 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.

Overall consumer prices rose 2.9 percent last fiscal year, the most since 1990, according to the Japan Statistics Bureau. Wages haven’t kept up with rising living costs since April 2013.

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