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2013年9月23日 (月)

政労使協議 成長の好循環へ議論深めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun September 22, 2013
3 sides urged to discuss ways to achieve virtuous cycle of growth
政労使協議 成長の好循環へ議論深めたい(9月21日付・読売社説)

Pulling the country out of deflation is a goal shared by the government and the labor and business communities. We urge these three sides to deepen discussions and draw up a feasible strategy to establish a virtuous cycle in which wages will rise along with economic growth.

The government proposed launching such three-way talks in its growth strategy unveiled in June, and the three sides held their first meeting on Friday.

The government has taken the rare action of establishing a forum in which it will discuss wages and other labor issues with representatives of workers and employers. This appears to signal that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is determined to lift the Japanese economy from deflation by any means.

During Friday’s meeting, Abe stressed that the government intends to strengthen cooperation with businesses and other sides concerned. “Whether we can establish a virtuous cycle that will boost corporate earnings, increase wages and expand employment is key,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), called on the government to implement support measures for companies. “If conditions are improved so companies can demonstrate their abilities, both employment and wages will grow,” Yonekura said.

The nation’s consumption and manufacturing are recovering, apparently backed by the current administration’s Abenomics economic measures. The Abe administration is expected to face a crucial test as to whether it will be able to help companies’ brisk earnings spill over to households and achieve self-sustaining economic growth driven by the private sector.

End vicious cycle

If inflation rises to 2 percent, the target set by the Bank of Japan, and the consumption tax rate is raised in April as planned, households have to bear a heavier financial burden. Unless wages go up, consumption could slump, possibly leading to an economic downturn.

The issue of individual companies’ wage levels is not on the agenda of the three-way talks, but the development of the talks could affect future labor-management wage negotiations.

In recent years, many labor unions refrained from seeking a rise in overall pay scales during annual spring labor offensives, as they put higher priority on job security. Thus, the Abe administration’s positive stance on wage hikes could become a strong tailwind for labor unions.

After seeing an upturn in their earnings, companies tend to raise bonuses but try to leave basic pay scales unchanged as much as possible, because basic wage hikes are likely to result in fixed cost increases.

This can be regarded as a rational management decision for an individual company. However, lower wages could dent consumers’ appetite for spending, eventually reducing sales of products and services. In the past, such sales slumps have spurred price falls and contributed to worsening deflation.

Japanese companies are estimated to hold about ¥220 trillion in cash and deposits. The firms’ massive reserves are met with criticism, as they appear to make them reluctant to share profits with workers.

The government plans to soon devise its second growth strategy, centering on support measures for companies, such as tax cuts for investments. Public attention will likely be focused on whether employers raise overall wage scales with support from government measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2013)
(2013年9月21日02時20分  読売新聞)


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