The other day, during a relatively lighthearted discussion on NHK about a heavy subject–the economic prospects for the current generation of 35-year-olds–a statistic dropped like a bomb. According to some government survey, 82% of all 35 year-olds in Japan makes ¥2 miiion or less a year. This number was cited in relation to marriage prospects, since most women these days are becoming more practical-minded about marriage partners. However, the government, not to mention the housing industry, should be very, very scared by this statistic.
Common wisdom in Japan says the price you pay for a property should not be more than five times your annual income, and generally this truism has driven the government’s housing policy. Thirty-five is the age at which people start thinking about buying a house for their family, if they haven’t already, but if they’re only making ¥2 million a year that means they shouldn’t buy anything more than ¥10 million. There’s nothing that cheap, at least not in major urban centers and their surrounding suburbs. Of course, a married couple could combine their incomes for a theoretical ¥20 million property, which sounds more like it, though in central cities that’s only about half what you’d need. Unless real wages go up in the near future, very, very few people of this generation are going to be able to buy houses, so expect a lingering slump very soon.
In any case, with both spouses working, there is no way they could have children without day care facilities, and as everybody knows day care in Japan is sorely lacking at the moment. There are waiting lists everywhere. The government’s ideal of a working father and a stay-at-home mother is becomes more and more of a fantasy.