Yearly statistics put recession into slightly better focus

February 24th, 2012 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

Here's your money: Bank of Japan

As the fiscal year draws to a close the relevant government ministries and agencies release their statistics for the previous calendar year. This week, the media mostly concentrated on a survey by the Bank of Japan that revealed a steep rise in the percentage of households (two or more people) with absolutely no financial assets, meaning no stocks, bonds, savings or annuities: 28.6 percent, 6.3 points higher than it was in 2010 and the highest it has ever been since 1963, when the BOJ started conducting this particular survey. Among the households that did have financial assets, the average amount per household was ¥11.5 million, or ¥190,000 less than in 2010. The reason cited by the BOJ is a loss of value in securities affected by market performance in response to the March 11 disaster and the European credit crisis. However, one aspect of the survey that tends to get overlooked in most news reports is that 8,000 questionnaires were sent out but only 47.5 percent were returned with responses, which means the number of households represented was less than 4,000.

For a bit more insight into the nation’s economic well-being, there’s the chingin kozo kihon tokei chosa, a survey conducted by the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry to find out the situation with regards to salaries and wages. According to the results the average monthly pay of a full-time worker in Japan in 2011 was ¥296,800, which was 0.2 percent less than it was in 2010. Yearly salaries have been going down since 2008, when the average was ¥299,980. This amount includes basic wage plus any regular allowances but does not include overtime or bonuses. The ministry received responses from 45,818 firms, each of which has at least ten employees. Broken down a bit further, the average yearly pay for men was ¥328,300 (about the same as it was in 2010) and for women it was ¥231,900. That’s about 70 percent of men’s pay, but ten years ago women’s average pay was 60 percent of men’s.

In related news, the Ministry of Internal Affair and Communications just released results of a survey on types of employment that shows 35.2 percent of all workers are now classified as non-regular and/or non-fulltime employees, meaning they are either part-timers, contractees or temps. That’s 0.8 points higher than in 2010. It does not include data from the three prefectures most affected by the March disaster. This percentage is a record high, which the ministry attributes to the fact that more retirees and rehired people have reentered the workforce as non-regular employees. Breaking it down further: not counting executives, there were 49.18 million workers in Japan in 2011, or 230,000 more than there were in 2010; 31.85 of these were regular, full-time employees, or 250,000 less than 2010; 17.33 million were non-regular employees, or 480,000 more than 2010. In this latter category, 11.81 million were part-timers (330,000 increase), 3.4 million were contractees (270,000 more), and 920,000 were temps (about the same). Moreover, 2.84 million people left the workforce, 330,000 less than in 2010, but of these 1.09 million had not held a job “for more than one year,” so it’s not clear if they have left the workforce permanently.

The same ministry also published its shohi shishutsu chosa, or survey of household spending. Unsurprisingly, the results show that household spending was the lowest it’s been since 2000. The households surveyed, which included those with only one person, spent on average ¥247,219 a month. There were a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with the March disaster: less electricity consumption and less money spent on entertainment (due to jishuku, or self-restraint). In addition, the eco-point system ended last year, thus putting a slight damper on purchases of large appliances, and once the changeover to digital took place, sales of TVs plummeted. But it’s also a trend. Household expenditures reached ¥280,000 in 2000, and 2011 saw the amount drop below ¥250,000 for the first time. Households that showed the greatest drop in spending were those with two or more members.

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