The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Govt panel submits proposal for ¥31 minimum wage increase

- The Yomiuri Shimbun

A government panel submitted a proposal to Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Shigeyuki Goto Tuesday to raise the minimum hourly wage by up to ¥31 this year, which would li the national average to ¥961.

It is the largest increase recommende­d by the Central Minimum Wages Council, exceeding the previous record of ¥28 proposed in scal 2021.

e council’s proposal for a 3.3% rise also represents a record high, surpassing the previous record of a 3.1% recommende­d increase in scal 2016.

e minimum wage is set annually by each prefecture based on the guidelines set by the council, which includes labor and management representa­tives, and experts. e new minimum wage is usually adopted in October and applies to all workers regardless of employment status. Employers who violate it are subject to a ne of up to ¥500,000 under the Minimum Wage Law.

If minimum wages are raised by each prefecture in line with the council’s proposal, the minimum hourly wage in Osaka Prefecture will reach the ¥1,000 level for the first time. The minimum wage in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture is currently more than ¥1,000.

e average minimum wage has increased by about 3% every year in line with the government policy since scal 2016, apart from

scal 2020 when it increased just 0.1% due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

e subcommitt­ee of the council divided the prefecture­s into four groups based on the economic circumstan­ces and prices in each region: group A, comprising six prefecture­s including Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka; B, 11 prefecture­s including Ibaraki, Shizuoka and Hyogo; C, 14 prefecture­s including Hokkaido, Tokushima and Fukuoka; and D, 16 prefecture­s including Aomori, Ehime and Kagoshima.

e panel recommende­d raising the minimum wage by ¥31 in groups A and B, and by ¥30 in groups C and D.

Against a backdrop of surging prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sharp depreciati­on of the yen, labor and management sides agreed on the decision to raise minimum wages this scal year. But while labor representa­tives sought a drastic increase, management wanted the hike to be held down, citing suppressed corporate earnings due to rising raw material costs.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and others, experts proposed 3.3% as the yardstick at the council’s h meeting on Monday.

“A single-person household cannot make ends meet unless the minimum hourly wage is above ¥950, even in the prefecture with the lowest minimum wage,” the labor side said. However, the management side argued that sharp increases in the minimum wage “did not adequately take into account the business conditions of small and midsize enterprise­s.”

Discussion­s continued until late into the night on Monday.

Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, comprising small and midsize enterprise­s nationwide, said Tuesday sincere discussion­s were held at the meeting.

However, he strongly urged the government to create an environmen­t in which small and midsize companies can raise wages voluntaril­y “by securing budgets for various measures to support rms striving to improve productivi­ty.”

Regarding the ¥31 yardstick, Mimura said, “It’s di cult to say that it adequately re ects the current situation, regarding the ability of small and mid-size companies to pay [such wages].”

“I’m aware that the minimum wage increase will be costly [for small and midsize enterprise­s],” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said Tuesday. “We need to pay close attention to the speci c impact on the business performanc­e of small, midsize and micro enterprise­s,” he said at a press conference.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda said, “We want to o er comprehens­ive support so that companies can raise wages,” referring to past government e orts, including subsidies for small and midsize businesses to help them improve productivi­ty. (Aug. 3)

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