Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought Tuesday to downplay a remark last week that critics claim shows he is out of touch, saying it was misinterpreted.

Abe’s remark, which used the example of a hypothetical wife who earns a salary of ¥250,000 per month, has drawn anger and criticism from working- and middle-class people who read the comment as referring to a part-time job, for which the salary would be considered surprisingly high.

Critics say Abe, who grew up the scion of a wealthy elite family, is out of touch with the reality of the economy. According to the labor ministry, the average monthly wage for part-timers was just ¥96,638 in November at a company with five workers or more.

“You should listen to my remark more carefully. I didn’t say it’s a part-time job,” Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Tuesday.

But Chinami Nishimura, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party of Japan, disagreed, citing the context of his remark.

“You clearly (said) it’s a part-timer. Please don’t try to get away with this,” she said.

In the Diet last Friday, Abe was arguing that “when the economy recovers and jobs increase, it’s possible the average wage per worker will become lower because more people will start working part-time jobs.”

He then said: “If my wife who doesn’t have a job starts working after feeling the economy is now on a full-fledged recovery track, the income of my family will be. . . . If I earn ¥500,000 and my wife earns ¥250,000, (the total income) is ¥750,000.

“But the average will be lower because two people are now working,” he added.

During Tuesday’s session, Abe emphasized the main point of his argument was that the average wage per worker could decrease at the beginning of an economic recovery.

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