National

Japanese husbands' pocket money seen shrinking as mothers gain more respect from kids

by Toru Fujioka

Bloomberg

Salarymen have taken a pummeling in recent years — with pay stagnating and rising numbers of working women and mothers eroding their once-dominant position as the family’s breadwinner.

Those changes have affected how they are seen at home, with children respecting their mothers more than fathers for the first time, according to recent research. And wives — who typically control the purse strings in Japanese households — have continued cutting their husbands’ pocket money, a survey by Shinsei Bank showed last week.

Over the past two decades, average male base wages have shrunk 0.5 percent. And even though flat or falling prices mean there may have been little damage to purchasing power, that stagnation meant that there has been little impetus for pocket money to rise.

Conversely, the increasing entry of women into the workforce has meant that their pay has risen — up 15 percent over the same period, according to a labor ministry report. That increase might partly be to supplement family incomes and subsidize the flat salaries of husbands, but it’s causing a change in how women are perceived in the home, according to the research from Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, which is connected to one of the nation’s largest ad agencies.

The number of children who said they respect their mothers surged to a record high of 68.1 percent, surpassing that of fathers for the first time, according to the Hakuhodo survey, which has been conducted once a decade since 1997. About 62 percent of kids said they respected their fathers, down from the previous survey.

“We suspect the relationship between mothers and fathers is changing because of the increasing number of double-income households,” Hakuhodo said. “More mothers are working. They’re working and flourishing outside the home, and they also take care of chores at home,” Hakuhodo Institute said in an emailed statement.

“We think the extent of respect from children went up from seeing that up close.”

And while more fathers are helping out at home, there is still a long way to go. Even though working men have the same entitlement as women for parental leave after childbirth, only 3 percent of men used this in fiscal 2016, with 57 percent taking less than five days in 2015. That compares with 82 percent of women using this subsidized leave, according to a labor ministry report.

“Japanese men continue to face a tough environment,” said Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. whose pocket money hasn’t risen in recent years. This stagnation of allowances is coming from concerns about wage growth, higher taxes and an aging population, problems that are bigger than any one man, he said.

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