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2014年1月29日 (水)

春闘スタート 「好循環」を占う賃上げの行方

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 28, 2014
Labor-management wage talks key to spurring virtuous circle
春闘スタート 「好循環」を占う賃上げの行方(1月28日付・読売社説)

Can wage increases act as a driving force to the Abe administration’s efforts at achieving a virtuous circle through a package of economic measures referred to as Abenomics?

This year’s annual spring labor offensive will serve as a touchstone for this.

Top officials of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) held an open forum Monday, effectively kicking off this year’s annual labor offensive for wage hikes.

Corporate performance has improved as the yen weakens. It is important for corporate profits to lead to pay hikes, thereby recovering consumption to further shore up the economy.

Rengo President Nobuaki Koga said at the open forum that the nation’s biggest trade union will “seek to raise the wage standards for all workers.” He stressed he would seek a regular pay hike of about 2 percent and a pay scale hike of more than 1 percent.

In its basic policy for this year’s labor-management negotiations on wage hikes, Keidanren has said that “high-flying businesses will use their expanded profits to raise the pay of their employees.” The nation’s largest business group will approve a pay scale hike for the first time in six years.

In a series of tripartite meetings last year with representatives from the labor and management sectors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for pay hikes while offering corporate assistance measures such as reducing the corporate tax and promoting deregulation. It is encouraging to see that such efforts have led to heightening the momentum for pay increases.

Of course, wages are set through the labor-management negotiations of each firm. But we have to seriously face the fact that the average salary of workers has declined by about 13 percent over the past 15 years.

Pay scale hike vital

Consumer prices have been turning upward, and the consumption tax rate will rise from 5 percent to 8 percent in April. If households’ financial burdens increase without wages being raised, consumption could decline, thereby causing the economy to lose steam.

In this year’s labor-management talks, pay scale increases must be discussed proactively centering on big businesses with robust corporate records.

Many companies are wary of pay scale increases that would push up wages permanently. As things stand, there are few alternatives but to reward improvements in corporate performance primarily through bonuses and overtime payments.

It will be essential to move forward with pay hikes and to move from big businesses to small and midsize companies and from regular employees to irregular workers.

Businesses should aggressively pursue profits by investing surplus funds proactively for further growth. It will require cooperation from the labor side to implement measures to improve productivity, including a shift to sectors in which high growth can be expected and a review of employment conditions for the purpose of acquiring outstanding personnel.

Raising the income and stabilizing the employment of irregular workers, who account for 40 percent of the total workforce, are tasks to be tackled jointly by the labor and management sectors.

In-depth discussions are needed on the employment system to come up with such measures as expanding the door for capable and highly motivated part-time workers to be promoted as regular workers.

How to utilize a wide variety of human resources, including women and the elderly, as valuable workers also is a matter to be discussed during the annual labor-management negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2014)
(2014年1月28日01時11分  読売新聞)


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