In Japan, summer and winter mean bonus time, which is kind of like getting Christmas twice a year. Japanese workers often use the extra money to take a well-deserved vacation or to buy something big they’ve had their eyes on for a while.

R25, a website focused on business professionals and their lifestyle, conducted a survey with 300 businessmen to find out about last year’s bonuses. Let’s see what they discovered!

  • Getting mad money!

The first question on the list was to simply find out how many of the respondents got a bonus. Sadly for the workers, it looks like only about 70 percent of them actually got anything. R25 didn’t list the previous year’s bonuses, so we did a little digging and found’s research. According to Kakaku, there has been a slight but steady increase in the number of workers not getting bonuses (36 percent in 2010, 38.4 percent in 2011, and 41.4 percent in 2012). Obviously, R25 used a different sample group than Kakaku, so we can’t draw any direct conclusions, but it is useful for a frame of reference.

Next, R25 found that the average bonus was about 410,000 yen (approximately US$4,193), which is actually significantly lower than Kakaku’s findings of 560,000 yen (approximately $5,727) for the average man. Additionally, in R25’s findings, the average amount of bonuses used for fun (in other words not saved or spent on paying back loans) was only 57 percent. Kakaku broke their results down differently, but only 12 percent of their respondents were not able to use any of the money for fun. 20 percent said that they were able to use between 50,000 and 100,000 yen (very roughly $500 to $1,000) for fun, with a wide distribution in either direction.

  • A not-so-silver lining

Unfortunately, it seems that only only 54.3 percent of those surveyed by R25 were happy with their bonuses. While this may seem strange to Westerners (“Free money!!”), it is helpful to remember that Japanese salaries tend to be lower than American salaries, so many Japanese people use bonuses to pad out their yearly budgets. Bonuses can have a large impact on purchasing power and the standard of living for workers.

On the other hand, Kakaku found that only 24 percent of the workers they surveyed felt their bonuses were sufficient or somewhat sufficient, with the other 76 percent finding their bonuses somewhat insufficient or very insufficient. It is important to note, though, that Kakaku included answers from both men and women. According to Kakaku, women’s bonuses only averaged out to 400,000 yen ($4,091), a full 160,000 yen (US$1,635) less than men’s, which may explain a large part of the unhappiness.

  • Living (not-so) large!

In R25’s survey, the main thing respondents were happy about was being able to purchase a long-desired item, followed up by using the money to relax or purchase luxury items. Kakaku’s questions were slightly different, but they found that the main ways people used their bonus money were for savings, shopping (mainly for clothing, furniture, computers, and sports/outdoor goods), paying back loans, and traveling.

For the 45.7 percent of workers who were unhappy with their bonuses, the main three reasons they gave R25 were as follows: They weren’t able to buy anything special, the money got used up on daily, non-essential items (such as buying a nice lunch), or all of the money went to daily necessities.

So, what will this summer bring? It’s hard to say, but we imagine Prime Minister Abe is hoping everyone has a happy summer “Christmas” and goes on shopping sprees to stimulate the economy. Be sure to let us know if you’re getting (or have gotten) a bonus this year. If so, we’d be happy to help you drink it away. We’re nice and helpful like that.

Source: R25 Web, Kakaku