Monday, 22 October 2012

Isn't it Expensive? Part 1



Last night, watching the news, I learned that the Australian Labor Party will balance the budget using the usual routine of slashing services, raising "tax x" to fund a cut to "tax y" and as well do some clever predictions against commodity markets and invest accordingly. Nothing new there.

What did strike me was one of the new revenue raising strategies is to raise the cost of visas. A partner visa lodged in Australia costs $3060 at the moment. On reporting this news to my ever-suffering better half, she replied: but what exactly does that buy? This is a good question. After a period of reflection, I decided to make a simple but largely fair comparison of certain key living costs that an immigrant faces in both Japan and Australia. Are you, dear reader, Australian? If so you might want to shield your eyes and gird your loins. Or maybe move to another country, because you are getting g-g-g-gouged! All Japanese prices below converted to AUD rate current at time of writing.

Round One: Getting Settled in your new home.
Partner visa:

AU: (Lodged withing Australia/From Abroad): $3060/$2060
JP:  (Lodged wherever you want) $73

Document Translation

AU: Police check ($66), Family register ($66). Total $132+ Depends on individual
JP: $0

Health Check

AU: $250 per person, must be performed at designated examiner
JP: $100 (if required), varies according to provider.

Total
AU: $3442

JP: $173

Verdict: Move to Australia and get g-g-g-gouged!

Round Two: Moving into a new home.

Please note for this round I have used Nagoya and Brisbane as benchmark cities as these are places I have knowledge of.

Inner City Monthly Rent: 3 Bedroom apartment/house
AU: Average ($2520)
JP: Average ($1650)

Suburban Monthly Rent 3 Bedroom Apartment/house
AU: Average ($1600)
JP: Average ($1038)

It must be noted here that not only are most suburbs relatively crime free in Japan they are also better linked in terms of public transport including buses, light rail and subway lines. Australian suburbs can be terrifying, isolated and frequently lack not only essential services  but have virtually no commercial diversity, populated by the exact same retailers as neighbouring areas. 

Verdict: Move to Australia and get g-g-g-gouged!

Round Three: Fresh Food

People say fresh food in Japan is expensive. This is as true as it is not. For example, if you choose to eat as the locals do, that is buying fruit, vegetables, fish and meat that is in season at the local supermarket and not department stores your food bill will be drastically reduced. However, should you hunger for mangoes in winter and apples in summer, you will have to pay accordingly. 

Further in my personal experience, quality control in Japan is much higher in Japan than it is in Australia. The produce and the diversity of suppliers from where it comes from that makes it to market makes Australia look very dodgy. Sure, an apple in season might cost $1.50 in Japan but that apple will be 3-4 times bigger than the Australian apple, taste better and if it is rotten, you can take it back to the store for an exchange! Just try that in Australia.

Finally as a vegetarian, my food bill is considerably different/specialised and is in many ways inherently cheaper than most omnivores. 

Verdict: Pretty much even, however, lack of brand power and commercial diversity in Australia makes certain commodities (detergent, soft drinks) extremely expensive.

Coming next time: Medical costs, utilities and welfare
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