The Japanese government’s drive to lift wages is gathering steam

Feb 01, 2018

EIGHT years after Natsumi started work at a printing company in Tokyo, her monthly salary is only ¥15,000 ($138) more than it was when she started. That equates to a paltry rise of less than 1% a year. She hopes that this year’s wage negotiation—an annual rite between employers and unions known as the shunto, or spring offensive—will provide a bigger boost.

She may be in luck. Economists are predicting the highest rise since wages started to inch up during the shunto in 2014, reaching 2.1% last year. (This figure includes regular wages, which are made up of “base pay” and a seniority-based element that is raised automatically, but excludes bonuses and overtime.) Asahi Group plans to raise wages by 3.4% at its soft-drinks business. Ikinari! Steak, a restaurant chain, says it is increasing the base wage alone by 5% for all its 430 full-time employees. “The momentum is there this year,” says Takeshi Niinami, the boss of Suntory, another drinks firm, who also advises the government on economic...

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