Sunday, May 19, 2013

Okozukai?

When I hear "okozukai" I usually think of the allowance that kids get from their parents. But okozukai is also used for the spending money that men get from their wives. There are a few articles online that explain what okozukai is and how it's used. I'd like to focus a little on the "why". Why are women in charge of the finances, and why are they giving their husbands an allowance? Doesn't that seem...strange?

Well, after getting married, most Japanese women stop working and give birth. Until the kid starts school at the age of 7, the mom is pretty much at home alone with her kid while her husband is at work. In a previous article, I lamented that Japanese banks close so early. As I mentioned, because wives stay home with the kids, they have free time to go to the bank, shop around for the best food deals and more.

But, why the penny-pinching? Why the allowance? Japanese wages are low! On the surface, the average wage seems comparable to the US. In other words, when everything is averaged together, the numbers aren't all that different. What's actually happening is that wages are flat, and low and rise based more on your length of time at a company rather than your skills.

What's more is that Japanese companies will pay a university graduate the same thing they pay someone who only graduated from high school. This means that if you are a woman in your 20s and you get married, have a kid and quit working, that you have to work with your husband's salary. I'll use mine as an example. At 1,500 yen/hour (or $15 an hour) times 8 hours a day, I get 12,000 yen ($120). I only get paid for the days I work, so for 2013, I'll work 246 days times $120 a day, gets me $29,520 a year...before taxes.

Japanese people would probably get help from their parents, but back to okozukai. Now, you're a guy making close to $30,000 a year before taxes. Scrimping is the best way to make sure that you have enough money to live off of. 

What would change this system? The biggest thing would be the creation of a system that allows...encourages women to work after giving birth. This means more daycare centers, raising wages for all workers, and a cultural shift away from the traditional "male breadwinner, female housewife" ideal that has dominated for so long.

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