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2014年3月15日 (土)

春闘集中回答 賃上げの裾野をどう広げるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun March 13, 2014
Shunto wage hikes must become a rising tide that lifts all boats
春闘集中回答 賃上げの裾野をどう広げるか(3月13日付・読売社説)

Major manufacturing corporations have offered large increases in their employees’ base wages in response to demands from their labor unions. The large offers in the manufacturing sector—taken as a trendsetter in annual spring wage negotiations between labor and management—are the first in several years.

It is important to ensure that the wage increases in the manufacturing sector will encourage labor and management in other, non-manufacturing businesses to make similar pay-hike agreements. This is a crucial part of ensuring that the results of this year’s shunto negotiations are translated into meaningful benefits for ordinary household finances.

The trend toward wage increases in this year’s shunto talks has been set by Toyota Motor Corp. and other major carmakers, as well as 10 electric manufacturing corporations, including Hitachi, Ltd. These businesses have decided to raise their workers’ base salaries for the first time in six years, after hikes were halted in the wake of the so-called Lehman shock in the autumn of 2008.

The nation’s second-largest carmaker, Nissan Motor Co., has offered a base wage hike of ¥3,500 in addition to systematic increases in annual salaries, fully meeting the demands of its organized labor. Meanwhile, Toyota’s offer stood at ¥2,700, its highest increase since 2000.

Meanwhile, leading steelmakers like Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and JFE Steel Corp., offered base-wage hikes for the first time in 14 years, responding to their labor unions’ demand.

This year’s shunto has been marked by a number of factors not usually seen in negotiations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe helped steer negotiations by arranging unprecedented talks among the government, labor and management, during which his administration asked corporate executives to raise their workers’ wages.

This was part of a larger effort by the prime minister to pull the country out of protracted deflation.
Export-oriented companies in particular have seen sharp improvements in business performance. This has been made possible largely through a decline in the value of the yen, a product of the Abe administration’s economic policy line, known as Abenomics.

The pay raises at these corporations suggest that they find it appropriate to reflect their improved performances in employee wages. Over many years, these firms sought to hold down wages, citing their dire business environment.

Firms willing to help

These coordinated wage increases can be regarded as a clear indication of the corporations’ readiness to work with the government to achieve a virtuous economic cycle—an increase in corporate earnings that makes pay raises possible, in turn bolstering personal consumption and ultimately driving an economic expansion.

There is concern that the hike in the consumption tax rate on April 1 could tip the economy into a downturn. We hope the latest wage increases will do much to strengthen the foundations of the economy after April’s consumption tax increase.

However, in spite of increasingly clear signs of a return to prosperity, the nation still faces a mountain of challenges, and the hurdles toward ending deflation are still high. Against this backdrop it is vital that any economic boost derived from the pay hikes spread onward to small and mid-sized corporations, to the economies of communities beyond Japan’s major urban centers.

The government should support corporations by actualizing the “third arrow” of Abenomics, which entails corporate tax cuts and aggressive market deregulation. Shifting some of the workforce to growth fields is also a priority.

Another key question is whether all of Japan’s corporations will be able to successfully implement aggressive business strategies.

A major factor aggravating deflation was that private corporations tended to stockpile a sizable part of their profits, keeping the money in reserve despite improvements in profitability from increased labor productivity. This resulted in the failure to raise workers’ wages and proactively invest in plant and equipment.

It is also worrying to see that the prolonged economic slowdown has been accompanied by a decrease in the number of regular employees and a consequent increase in lower-wage nonregular workers.

Corporate labor and management should join hands to address the problem. Among the changes needed are improvements to nonregular employee working conditions, increased promotion of nonregular workers to regular employee status and the creation of more jobs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 13, 2014)
(2014年3月13日01時22分  読売新聞)


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