Struggles of living in Japan on minimum wage

English: Homeless man, Tokyo. Français : Un sa...

English: Homeless man, Tokyo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Teppei Funatani

In my opinion, if people live poor lives, there are three steps that they have to overcome.

First, uneasiness for my future. Living in Japan costs a lot of money. Food, rent, medical expenses, and so on. Also we should pay about 15,000 yen every month for a pension when we reach 20 years old. How do I manage my everyday life if I can only earn minimum wage?

In the article “Homeless face uphill fight to get life back,” a man who was in his mid-40s worked for a data management company as a temporary worker and earned only 160,000 yen a month. He lived alone and had no hope for his future. As this article tells you, if you live hand-to-mouth, there is no room in your mind to think about your future. You can barely support yourself and this vicious circle probably never ends unless a miracle happens.

Next, apathy of my life. Let’s imagine that even though you work as hard as you can, you can only get the lowest salary yen a day and you cannot get a bonus. It is likely that you will lose interest your job and don’t want to work anymore. It is natural that you complain about your lower salary, although you work as long as white-collared workers do. However, you soon realize that your dissatisfaction does not bring you anything and you have no choice but to give up.

Finally, a sense of despair for everything. As above, you feel anxiety for your future at first, and next you give up having hope. And you come to the final stage of your poor life. As Anne Allison said in her book Precarious Japan, because of depression and insecurity over jobs, the number of people who commit suicide has remained around 30,000 ever since 1998 (2013). The number of unemployment was 2,460,000 people in March, 2014 (Statistics Bureau, May 5, 2014). Even in large companies, a lot of employees are fired. It is easy to imagine that you lose your job and be homeless. This idea gradually is damaging your heart and you think that your hopes for the future come to nothing. Then you decide to commit suicide.


Anne Allison. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Homeless face uphill fight to get back life. (May 20, 2014). Retrieved from

Labour Force Survey, Monthly Result-March 2014-. (May 2, 2014). Retrieved from

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2 thoughts on “Struggles of living in Japan on minimum wage

  1. Pingback: Living on minimum wage in Japan | JAPANsociology

  2. Pingback: If I am earning minimum wage | JAPANsociology

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