I’m still wondering what Asahi Shimbun was thinking when it admitted after all these years that the key testimony on which the sexual slavery narrative for the Korean comfort women relied was a complete fabrication. It was so utterly unprepared for the all too predictable backlash that I wondered, could it have made a secret pact with the Devil to assist the Abe administration and its nationalist supporters in return for some unspeakably vile favor, say, a 20% increase in ad revenue? Now, as the snap election approaches, the Nov. 26 Asahi carries an article entitled “Hourly Part-time Wages in Major Cities Highest Ever: 961 Yen as Shortage of Workers Worsens (大都市バイトの時給、過去最高 人手不足進み９６１円)” that only deepens my suspicions.
So how much has this raised part-time wages? According to the report, the average part-time wage in the three major urban centers (Metropolitan Tokyo and its environs, Tokai (Nagoya et al) and Kansai (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, etc.)) in October reached 961 Yen, up 8 Yen year-on-year, surpassing the previous high of 959 Yen, in 2006. A little arithmetic will tell you that this represents a 0.8% increase year-on-year—yes, a year in which the Yen went from 97.8214 to 108.0614 to the US Dollar, a 9.5% drop in value and a consumption tax hike was introduced that imposed a 3% surcharge on most consumption items except rent and tuition. A part-time worker should feel lucky if the 8 Yen rise covers half the increase in expenses.
There’s more. The article goes on to say, “Sales and services at 944 Yen, up three from same month of previous year. Job offers were brisk for staffing events for year’s end/new year’s sales competition. Likewise, hourly wages for restaurants and other food establishments were also up 10, at 937. These job offers comprised almost half of the total, pushing up the overall figure.” Now, the average wage at food establishments are up 1.0% year-on-year, so you could argue that this is giving the overall figure a nudge. But sales and services clocked in at a measly 0.3%. How can anyone say with a straight face that these two together (the article is pretty unambiguous on this point) pushed up the total? Given the timing so close to the snap election and the administration’s emphasis on job creation as a key achievement of Abenomics, it’s not unfair to wonder if id the Asahi reporter who wrote this article and his editor have gone into the tank for Mr. Abe and his minions.
Sadly (speaking as a political analyst), there are two, more plausible, more mundane explanations for this blatantly misleading article. First, the relationship between the economic department of a mainstream daily and its subject—businesses—is less adversarial than that the more complicated relationships between the political department and its subject—politicians—or the social scene department and its subjects—the police, prosecutors’ office, criminals, etc.—so it would be receptive to the positive spin put on the information by the news source, major job information provider Recruit Jobs, which has a vested interest in drumming up demand to place adds in its publications and on its website. Second, the reporter and editor were so stupid that they swallowed the Recruit Jobs bait hook, line and sinker. But I’m not sure which explanation I find more disturbing.