On Part-time Jobs

On Part-time Jobs

by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

When I was a student, which was more than ten years ago now, the average hourly wage for part-time work was about the same as a cup of coffee in an average coffee shop. To make it plain, at the end of the 1960's it was about 150 yen. “Hi-Lite” cost 80 yen, and comic books were about 100 yen. Since I just bought records with the money I made working, I could buy one record for every day-and-a-half of labor.

Now, compared to a 300 yen cup of coffee, the standard wage for part time work is 500 yen. It looks as though the market price has changed a little. You can buy two records with one day's labor.

If you just look at the numbers, it seems like our standard of living has gotten better in those ten years. From a lifestyle point-of-view, though, I don't think things have really improved. In the old days, housewives didn't have to take part time jobs, and there was no loan-repayment hell.

Numbers are really complicated. You can't always trust what the General Accounting Office tells you. GNP is a total sham. If they plopped GNP down in the west entrance of Shinjuku Station and let anyone who wanted to come up and touch it then I might have some faith in it. But short of that, I can't trust anything with so little substance.

In this respect, I think Kenichiro Takemura (politico-economic pundit) and Kakuei Tanaka (former prime-minister) are amazing. Those guys, knowing fully that their figures were dubious, chose only to use numbers that said the situation was fine. If used only to that extent, well, just one notebook will suffice.

Anyway, I still remember the records that I bought with the money from the part-time job of my school days, and how I listened to them devotedly. But it wasn't their number or their volume that really mattered; the important thing was their quality.