Our Japanese writer, a hairstylist who has worked in Singapore for the last decade, tells us about a loophole in the Japanese minimum wage system.
I often get asked: “Do you have minimum wages in Japan?” The Japanese do but it does not make our lives easy.
Let me talk about my hometown, Hokkaido. (Different prefecture has different minimum wages in Japan) Our minimum wage per hour is 901 JPY/hour, which is about 11.69 SGD/hour. And in some dangerous industries like construction and manufacturing, it is around 50-100 JPY higher.
If your employer pays you less than this, they get serious punishment. So, they only go strictly by this rule. Nothing else.
This is the kind of money a Japanese worker earns working in restaurants, retail outlets, call centres and administration offices. Workers’ law says you cannot make your employees work more than 40 hours per week, therefore you will make around 36040 JPY/week if you work full time. It’s about 144160 JPY ($1870.69 SGD)/month.
Here comes the interesting part: In Hokkaido, employers also go strictly by the minimum wage rule. Employers tell the workers “ Ok! This is the minimum wage so you take or don’t take!” In the end, workers get paid a lot less than people who are on a Japan welfare “Social Security Income”, which a Japanese worker can get from the Japanese government (when you cannot find a job or not in the condition to work).
According to our Japanese law, monthly Social Security Income is calculated according to “the minimum standard to sustain your life”. Now, Social Security Income is not a breeze either. Japanese under this welfare cannot use air-conditioning during the summer (I have learnt of a beneficiary who died because of this rule) and sometimes government refuses to pay out the welfare because they have 4kg of extra rice in the kitchen.
Do you get the idea of how “minimum” the minimum standard is for Social Security Income? Yeah, it is really bare minimal. However, In Hokkaido and a few prefectures, a person on Social Security Income receives more than a worker on minimum wage.
In Sapporo, people who are on welfare receive 20%-30% more than a worker on minimum wage. So you see? Our minimum wage is lesser than this Social Security Income! Doesn’t this sound silly? If I ask if you’d rather work and get less money or just be unemployed and apply for Social security income? Of course, many would rather receive welfare! Our minimum wage system is greatly flawed.
Until last year, this conflict was seen in 11 prefectures in Japan. After the efforts of unions and activists, they raised the minimum wages by another 15 JPY/hour average.. But still, this figure does not prevent you from starving. That is why i need to come to Singapore to work.