Critics assail Abe after middle-class income gaffe highlights wealthy upbringing


Staff Writer

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.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Who cares what ordinary people think? The wise and powerful Abe has spoken. He is Barack’s friend, and so I support him.

  • daito

    “an imaginary family where the husband earns ¥500,000 a month and the wife, who recently began a part-time job, makes ¥250,000.”

    In which f… parallel world is this silly man living?

  • Max Erimo

    When has this man ever said or done anything of worth or substance for the Japanese people?NEVER. Why are people surprised by his gaffes. He says he wants to create a climate where it is easier to have and raise children, while his cronies lambast a young politician for planning to take parental leave when his child is born.
    So out of touch.
    Come the elections this summer, do the Japanese people understand what they need to do to save their country? Alas I fear not.

    • zer0_0zor0

      He’s a product of the CIA, like his grandad, though we can’t blame everything his grandad did on him…

    • Charles

      He’ll get reelected. This isn’t a real democracy.

      People in North Korea vote, too. If you look at the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea, you’ll see the same thing: one party controlling the majority of the legislature, with a few minority parties that cannot come anywhere close to challenging the majority party.

      Oh, but Japan is different. Because in North Korea, the media can’t criticize the government. Oh, wait–Japanese NHK, by law, can’t criticize the government, either. I almost forgot. NHK is required by law to be “politically neutral,” which for 90%+ of post-1952 Japanese history, has had the de facto meaning of “It is illegal to criticize the Liberal Democratic Party.”

  • Sacha Salvatore Morgese

    A fresh graduate doesn’t make 250.000 a month in Japan and let’s not forget taxes! The salaries in this country are too low, but nobody talks about it. They need to get rid of the seniority system and start working normal amount of time.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    Nothing new here. Remember when Aso was P.M. and had NO idea about the prices of food in a supermarket? Again this is not unique to Japan, politicians the world over tend to live in a rarified atmosphere, nicely insulated from the travails THEY place on the people they claim to represent.

  • KetsuroOu

    Haters are going to hate.

  • Sacha Salvatore Morgese

    Yeah, that is what I meant about taxes. Being Italian, I agree that Japanese taxes are not as high as other developed countries (as a consequence life in Italy is cheaper), but when last year my health insurance went from 8000 yen to 97000 yen on an average salary of 230000 a month I was shocked. “Luckily” at my current job I’m enrolled in shakaihoken and don’t have to worry about it, but that is still a lot in my opinion, for someone who is still in his 20s and lives alone.

    I wouldn’t trust salaries too much. Most people in Japan have overtime included in their salary, therefore the average doesn’t represent reality (20/40 hours per month, where I personally know many people who work 80/100 hours). This is the reality of a full time worker, where things are of course different when we talk about contract/temporary employees. The other reason why Japanese people apparently work less, it’s probably because of the high number of national holidays. However, in Japan they have fewer paid vacations (nonetheless hard to take, because of the companies, not the people) and almost no sick leaves.

    I think you made some good points, unfortunately the situation is absolutely not simple and coming up with a solution requires more than some arguing on the internet. I can’t really see Japan keep going this way for a long time though.