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2013年2月 1日 (金)

春闘スタート 景気回復へ問われる労使協調

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 1, 2013)
Business, labor groups should cooperate for economic recovery
春闘スタート 景気回復へ問われる労使協調(1月31日付・読売社説)

This year's shunto spring wage negotiations have just began, as the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to revitalize the nation's economy and pull Japan out of deflation. Leaders of business and labor groups surely will have a fierce tug-of-war over wage hikes.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) insists that overall salaries must be raised by 1 percent--in addition to a seniority-based regular wage increase--saying salary hikes are necessary to boost personal spending and ultimately pull the nation out of deflation.

Wage levels have been falling for more than a decade--a factor cited by Rengo as discouraging consumers from spending money and causing the nation to suffer a sluggish economy and deflation.

The Japanese Business Federation (Keidanren) counters such arguments by saying top priority should be placed on securing employment and therefore there is no room for a pay-scale increase.

There are large differences between opinions of the labor and management sides.


An indication from Abe

A major focus of attention is how much this year's spring wage negotiations will reflect Abe's policy to put top priority on pulling Japan out of deflation.

"We aim to help companies become more profitable so as to expand employment and increase wages," Abe said during a press conference earlier this month at which he announced an emergency economic package. "We'd like to seek cooperation from company executives."

The prime minister has also announced a measure to reduce corporate taxes on companies that raise wages.

As the government and the Bank of Japan have set a 2 percent inflation target, Abe apparently does not want to see "bad inflation," under which only prices rise while wages do not.

Such strong signals from the prime minister may put some wind in the labor unions' sails. However, it is not clear whether they can achieve wage increases.

The most important thing is to help companies improve their productivity so they become strong enough to increase salaries.

The nation's businesses have been fighting an uphill battle mainly due to the prolonged sluggishness of the economy and fierce competition with overseas manufacturers. Quite a few companies also remain overstaffed.

The hyperappreciation of the yen is being rectified, while stock prices are rising. These are among the positive signs since December's general election brought a change of government from the Democratic Party of Japan to Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.

Nonetheless, different companies perform differently even in the same industry. One approach would be for companies that are doing relatively well to be the first to increase salaries.


Older and nonregular workers

Another major issue in this year's spring wage negotiations is retaining workers until the age of 65.

From April, companies will be obliged to retain workers until that age if they want to work beyond the current retirement age of 60. Keidanren has expressed its view that companies will suffer a huge burden of increased labor costs due to the measure.

We hope the labor and management sides will hold deeper negotiations on the issue to make the system work well for both sides.

Another important issue is improving the working conditions of nonregular workers, who account for 35 percent of the workforce.

Increases in the number of nonregular workers--who get lower salaries and suffer unstable employment compared to their full-time counterparts--have also triggered sluggish consumer spending.

Regarding nonregular workers, Rengo has called for introducing a system to change their status to full-time workers and creating clear rules on how they may enjoy pay hikes. Correcting gaps in working conditions between the two groups will surely encourage workers in general to spend more money.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 31, 2013)
(2013年1月31日01時39分  読売新聞)


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