Data gives snapshot of changing salary spend in Japan

New figures based on government research show that consumer spending – and saving – remain robust, despite low inflation and a long, cold winter. But that traditional patterns are changing.

selfie of family in Japan
Released in the week before Japan hosts the G20 Summit, data from research and representative body, the Federation of International Employers (FeDEE), shows that overall outlay on housing costs fell 10.1% year on year.This figure, derived from those used to calculate Japan’s consumer price index, is likely to be welcome news for globally mobile employees and relocatees given the high cost of accommodation, especially in the country’s largest conurbations.

Consumer spending patterns in Japan

Nevertheless, Tokyo remains in the top three most expensive locations for expats according to the latest Mercer index.Falling housings costs are also being offset by rises in transportation and communication costs, which rose by 11.9%, according to FeDEE.Along with trends elsewhere in the world, spending on leisure, culture and recreation are growing (up 7.8%), while spending on clothing and household consumer items together fell by around 4.5%. Spending on heating and lighting also fell, despite a cold and prolonged winter.

Saving still important

Japan’s reputation as a stable economy doesn’t always reflect the reality of monthly paypackets.The FeDEE study found incomes for working families are “remarkably seasonal, with May and January being the leanest months.” This can see families spend up to 96% of their monthly income However, in peak bonus season, December, the figures suggest people are able to put away as much as 60% of their monthly income in December, says FeDEE.

Traditions 'challenged by uncertainty'

“The Japanese are continuing to save, as they always have," comments the membership body. "But they are doing so in the face of highly fluctuating incomes.“They are caring less about domestic comforts and more about living for the moment. They are also being hit by sharp changes in travel and communications as they follow increasingly mobile and connected lives. “Japan is a culture on the move and the person who turns up at work each day is less hidebound by tradition, but also far less certain about the world they are part of - and helping to create.”

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