The Face of Japan’s Working Poor

by Yusuke Sugiyama

First, I researched the minimum wage in Japan and it is 764 yen, and surprisingly the minimum wage in Kyoto is actually 759 yen. When I find out the number, I was really surprised because I worked for 760 yen one hour when I was first year student. When I used to work for 760 yen one hour, I had been leading a little brutal life. I worked just once or twice a week and worked for three to four hours in a day because I had to do a lot of homework, so my income was about 10,000 to 25,000 yen one month. Fortunately since I rent an apartment from my uncle by free of rent money, I have my room and bed. Also my parent gives me 30,000 yen for cost of food every month, so I can use about 40.000 yen to 55,000 yen.

Compared with the people who live in net café, I had been leading a happy daily life, but I struggled against some pain. I used to eat instant ramen and fast food, and sometimes I suffered from hunger. Naturally, I cannot afford to go shopping and to make an excursion. However, I can maintain a decent standard of living because I have my house. If I had not had my house and friends, I would not have lived alone in Kyoto.

I think it is naturally for the people with temporary, part-time and short-time, which are called hiseiki, to stay such a place as net café and manga kissa. As Anne Allison said in Precarious Japan, those places are very convenient, and I thought that those places are ones where people enjoy reading a book and feel relaxed before I read the book; however, those places have serious problems.

One problem is that ordinary people have difficulty seeing net café nanmin in net café, so it is difficult to realize the problem. There are only the rooms which are individually divided by the wall, so they have few opportunities to interact with others. If I do not have much money, my house, my friends and my ibasho, I am sure not to live a life. However, there are a lot of people who are in similar situation in Japan.

I think that I can understand the danger of this style of working poor because I have experience to work for low wage. According to Allison, this is Japan’s new face of working poor. I also think we have to pay attention to this problem.


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

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Living in Japan on minimum wage

Masatoshi Yamamoto

According to Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan, we can see that Japan is very precarious now. Japan has a lot of serious social problems such as kakusa shakai, muen shakai, ikizurasa and so on, and there are a lot of people who can’t have hope for their future because of such problems. The precariat and the working poor are kinds of these people. Precariat means irregular workers, and working poor is people who can’t get enough wages, although they are working hard. Why are there so many precarious people in Japan? Why is Japan so precarious? I am worried about my future because I read this book and knew many serious facts in recent Japan.

In recent Japan, the number of net café dwellers is increasing. Many of them are irregular workers or jobless people, and the working poor are a kind of irregular workers. The working poor work as hard as regular workers every day, but they get wages less than those of regular workers. Moreover, a day labor earns on average 6000 to 8000 yen for one day, and it is difficult to live in Japan. Many people live in net cafés, though they are working. The reason is because the minimum age is very low in Japan. They can’t get enough wages to live on.

I can’t have clear image in my future yet, and I don’t know what kind of job I want to get. However, I want to work in a company and be a regular worker to get a stable salary to live. Nowadays, it is difficult for youths to find a job, and many of them become irregular workers. Therefore, maybe I will become an irregular worker if I can’t get my ideal job in my job search. If I become an irregular worker and earn wage that is close to minimum wage, I will hold a demonstration against the government or local community. I think that there are a lot of people who have same idea, so we should argue that the minimum wage is too low to live. The system of minimum wage will not change if we do something.

Our parents pay a lot of taxes, and I think that the government has some extra money because of the large amount of taxes. If it is true, I want government to provide funds to each local community. I wonder why the minimum wages are different among local communities. I hope these issues about minimum wage will be debated in Japanese society more than ever.


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

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The difficulty of living in Japan on minimum wage

Anonymous student post

Last year, the UN reported that the minimum wage in Japan is lowest in developed countries. The wage in Japan is 764 yen per hour on average, and the lowest is 664 yen per hour in the areas of Kyusyu in 2013. So now, Japanese government worked out a raise in the minimum wage. This is the one of the measures of poverty in Japan. But, even this measure has doubt that whether it really has good effect for the workers who are working for minimum wage. The following, I will mention that the present state of minimum wage workers and how they live in Japan every day. And what I think the Japanese government should do for them.

Now, 77 percent of workers in Japan are irregular workers, and almost of them fall into the ranks of the working poor (Yuasa 2009). On average, they can earn only minimum wage as 6,000 yen to 8,000 yen for a day. This paycheck is too hard to live on in Japan. Currently Japan has problems with the working poor and net café refugees, whose numbers are rising. Net café refugees are people who temporarily live in internet cafés, karaoke boxes, or comic book cafes. Net café refugees don’t have a residence because almost of them are non-regular employees and temp workers, and they don’t have enough money to pay rent for an apartment. In addition, it is difficult for them to get a regular job, because they don’t have an address. So the intention of the corporations, they don’t want to employees who don’t have address at the point of credibility.

Japanese government is working out a raise in minimum wage as a measure. But the measure focuses on workers under working minimum wage, it mainly part-time workers such as students and housewife. So net café refugees and non-regular workers don’t fit subject in the measure. This measure would become difficult for net café refugees or NEET, because corporations want high quality of employees.

If people become minimum wage employees, they would suffer from various obstacles and problems. At that time, if minimum wage workers have family or people they can rely on, they would be supported by other people around them, but if the workers live alone, they wouldn’t have people who can assist them. Therefore, in that case, the workers can’t get enough money and support to live in Japan. So I think that the increase in the divorce rate and unmarried rate are related to the increasing working poor and some problems such as net café refugees. Japanese government should be prepare measures not only rising in minimum wage, but also supporting systems for them who live alone or don’t have an address.


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

Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center

Taguchi, Norio. (2010) The role and limits of the minimum wage system. Iwate: Iwate University Bulletin.

Yuasa, Makoto (2008) Hanhinkon ”Suberidai shakai” kara no dasshutsu. Tokyo: Iwanami shinsho.

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The struggles of the working poor

Anonymous student post

Do you know the term “working poor”?

“The working poor” refers to part-time workers whose incomes fall below a given poverty line.  However, the Japanese government does not set a poverty line. Therefore, many people define “the working poor” as people who, even if work full-time as if they were the permanent employees, they earn less wages and it is difficult for them to maintain the life of the lowest limit.  These days, the number of the working poor is increasing in Japan. The labor problems must be serious, and Japanese people have to solve that immediately. In this article, I will describe the struggles of living in Japan if I am earning the minimum wage.

Then, what kind of difficulties do I find if I am earning the minimum wage?  I suppose that I am a non-regular employee and live by myself in an apartment.

Probably, I do not have enough money to live comfortably if I earn the minimum wage. So I have to make both ends meet. First, I will cut down on living expenses. The prices of uncooked foods in Japan―for example, vegetables and fruits―are more expensive than those in other countries. Therefore I will not be able to buy so many these foods and to start to buy the ready-to-eat foods, confectioneries, instant foods and so on. These foods are not so good for our health. Second, I will live in a low-rent apartment. The apartment whose rent is the lowest does not have a bath and a toilet in the room. People live in the apartment have to use the bath and the toilet together, so people may care about how long they can use it, when they can do and so on.

Thus, life on minimum wage is very hard. Furthermore, if people who live on minimum wage are discharged, they cannot earn the wage. And people cannot everyday find their daily employment. When day laborers cannot pay the rent and are evicted from their apartments, they will have to look for a place to sleep every night. In fact, people who, essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafes or manga kissa (Allison, 2013, p.46). Some people have been troubled with poverty even though they work very hard.

Then, what should the Japanese government do to solve the labor problem?

The Japanese government should make the companies to be complete the employment system that the companies should reemploy the non-regular employees who work very hard or raise their salary.  If so, the company can motivate all employees, I think.

The labor and the poverty problems are very serious. So, we should think about and grapple with these problems immediately. And we should not regard these problems as other people’s affairs.


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

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Balancing my goals with reality and hard choices

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

After I graduate from the university, I’d like to study at national university to get a master’s degree. (I don’t know what category I choose.) It’s still up in the air as of now.

What is indispensable for going on to a school and then continue to study is money. I watched a TV program named “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives”. Students have no choice but to work to make money for their everyday life, because the money that their parents send is decreasing year by year. According to Allison (2013), “one-third of all workers today are only irregularly employed. Holding jobs that are part-time, temporary, or contact labor, irregular workers lack job security, benefits, or decent wages.” I’ve felt that Japanese lifelong employment has collapsed, as she states. That also makes students poor. I imagine I may contribute to my support like students who the program has taken up. According to “Education at a Glance 2013 OECD Indicators”, “public expenditure on education in Japan ranks in most lowest among the member state.”

After studying at a graduate school, I’d like to get a job at an NGO in order to accumulate experiences of supporting people in hard situation. Later some years, working as a member of international institutions is my final goal.

In the case, it takes much time to hunt job at these institutions than others for way of severe employment. That means I have to work to earn my living until getting the job. Though, I doubt whether I find a sustainable job. Allison says (2013) “one-half of all young workers are ‘working poor'”. I might slide into this one.

Ideally speaking, before I turn thirty years old, I hope that I will be hired. Though there’s no guarantee. While I’m striving for the goal, my parents and grandparents could come down with a disease or divorce. In a worst-case scenario, somebody might die alone. As Allison states (2013) “All alone people die, which happens everywhere in Japan”, which is no longer other people concerns.

Taking account of these facts, I expect that I will hesitate to make a choice of working abroad or in Japan. Roughly speaking, serving at an NGO or an international institution in Japan could be possible. So that I can imagine that I will be working in Japan by any chance. It occurred to me that to start work as soon as I graduate from school. This idea might make my parents feel relieved, even though it also means giving up my goal.

From my expectation, I wouldn’t get married. I won’t want to part with my career that I will have built up. In Japanese society, women’s marriage means retiring from their work conventionally. But for family such as husband and child, probably no one knows of my death.

Thus to avoid dying alone, I hope that I will keep in touch with my friends and cousins, familiar people from now on. When think of ibasho, I consider a comfortable space where people who accept without reserve as ibasho. For me, ibasho is the place where my familiar people are.

The other day, I heard that the elementary school which my father went to may be closed within a few years due to a decrease of children. This typical reality shows example of shoushikoureika (Japan’s declining population). In the future, it will be going on more and more. I predict this phenomenon affects my future in form of maintaining living standard.


Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.12) Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

NAVIGATION 2014.4.25 “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives” from NHK online Website:

OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing from OECD Web site:

How to Solve the Problem of the Working Poor in Japan

In Justice

In Justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Megumi Takase

Under capitalist society, the poor can’t earn enough money to make a living while the rich own the large portion of the total wealth of their home countries. It is also true for Japan. Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) featured the problem of the working poor and attracted attention in 2006.

People who are called the working poor live at the low standard of living though they work hard. The problem of the working poor is caused by the structure of society. In Japan, corporations tend to recruit only new college graduates. Thus, it is difficult for people who can’t enter the high school or university for economical reasons to be recruited as regular employees. They tend to become non-regular employees and fall into the working poor. It happens not because of their faults but the social structure.

I think that the government should take action to solve this problem because it is difficult for individuals and corporations to do it which the structure of society made. Above all, the government should promote redistribution of wealth. Whether you succeed economically or not depends on luck. For example, suppose you were born in a rich household. You can enter the private university even if you can’t get good grades in high school. In job hunting, you will have an advantage over the poor who can’t enter the university only because you graduate from the university. After you enter a company, you will earn more income than the poor who are high school graduates. Of course, college graduates must do effort to develop their skills after entering a company. However, if they were born in a very poor household, they must not have an advantage of being a college graduate. Thus, the rich should distribute their wealth to the poor who unfortunately fall into the poor situation.

For the government to promote redistribution of wealth smoothly, the rich should have tolerance for distributing their wealth to the poor. In addition, the poor of course shouldn’t depend on social welfare program. Both the rich and the poor should consider and help each other. For creating a society where everyone considers others, I think that education is important. In high school, I had “Modern Society” class twice a week. However, I only studied the structure of the law, the Diet, or taxation. I had few opportunities to discuss about social inequality in the class. Before I took “International Sociology” class, I hadn’t considered this problem very often. Under this situation, people won’t be interested in the unfair society and understand redistribution of wealth. They will pursue their own benefits. For solving the problem of the working poor, Japanese government should draw up the curriculum which makes the young interested in social inequality.