The struggles of living on minimum wage in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

A number of people who cannot have a particular job because of a poor skill of relationship and who are junior or senior high school graduates is rising in recently precarious Japan. This means that many employees work as irregular workers, and live with a low wage, which is minimum wage or close to it. I will show that what life people spend in Japan if they earn minimum wage. First, it connects to losing one’s identity. Second, it is difficult to pay for rent for a home. Finally, they cannot support their family.

If they become a temporary worker due to problem of human relationships, they feel no ibasho and lose identity. As Amamiya said in Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, if a Japanese person has no affiliation (shozoku), they feel psychic turmoil: “this is what companies once provided and still do for a few seishain (regular workers): a steady salary, protection if there is a crisis, and, every bit as important, an identity.”

It is easy for irregular workers who do not have shozoku and ibasho to feel ikizurasa (hardship of life) and lose their identity. Also, Amamiya described “it is (dis)belonging – no recognition or acceptance by others (shonin) – that troubles the young Japanese today.” (Anne Allison, 2013, P.65)

People are not able to afford to live in permanent housing are, according to Anne Allison, the “drifting poor.” These “people who, [are] essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafes or manga kissa (comic book café)” (Anne Allison, 2013, P.44). Most of these people are flexible workers who earn minimum wage. As struggles of living in these places, not only that they unable to rest enough, but also their relationships are decreasing.

Minimum wage also cannot support a family. This means that it leads family to divorce and having no connection. This may link to solitary death. Furthermore, it has big impact on education because going to university costs them a large of money. However, education is very important in everything, particularly job-hunting. If children are unable to go to school or college due to poverty, a circle of poverty results. The Japanese situation will not improve as long as this lasts.

In conclusion, if people make minimum wage in Japan, some struggles of living arise. They come to feel ikizurasa and lose identity. And connection is lack because being a temporary residence and breaking family. The condition that children are not able to get a good education make a circle of poor. It is hard to live with minimum wage in Japan.


Anne Allison (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University Press. (pp.43-76)


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6 thoughts on “The struggles of living on minimum wage in Japan

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