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Japan's Major Union Reps Set to Seek Minimum 5% Pay Rise in 2024

TOKYO, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Japan's largest union, "Rengo", will ask for a pay increase of at least 5% at next year's spring wage negotiations to help workers overcome rising living costs in the face of inflation, a union representative said.

Japanese firms are under pressure from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's demands for pay rises to outpace inflation, currently running at 2.9 percent. Price-adjusted real wages have fallen for 18 months in a row, squeezing real incomes.

"This year's labour talks broke through Japan's negative structure to make us believe that wages will rise, bringing us to a turning point," Rengo President Tomoko Yoshino said. "To raise wages with everyone, wages must rise at small firms that account for 99.7% of firms and 70% of companies, respectively."

In Japan, wages on average had hardly grown in the past 30 years. In 2023, however, big firms struck a deal with unions that resulted in the biggest pay rises - 3.58% - in three decades.

The move by Rengo follows similar demands by other unions, laying the groundwork for the Bank of Japan to shift away from more than a decade of monetary stimulus.

JCM, which represents 2 million metal workers, said it was considering asking for a monthly base pay increase of at least 3% at wage talks.

UA Zensen, a union that covers service-sector workers and part-timers, said it would demand a 6% pay increase next year.

Six out of 10 economists in a Reuters poll expect major firms to increase pay in 2024.

Apart from pay demands, the 2024 labour push focuses on small firms that struggle to pass on costs, those who face difficulty in price-setting negotiations and those who need to develop favourable supply environments.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sonali Paul, Miral Fahmy, and Gerry Doyle

Source: Reuters

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