Japan’s Kishida Tells Unions He’ll Make Wage Hikes Sustainable

Japan’s Kishida Tells Unions He’ll Make Wage Hikes Sustainable

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(Bloomberg) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed Thursday to make a surge of wage rises sustainable, in an unusual appearance at the convention of Japan’s confederation of labor unions. 

Kishida became the first premier from his conservative Liberal Democratic Party to speak at the biennial Rengo event since 2007. His appearance comes as he presses for wage hikes to outstrip the inflation that is hurting household budgets and weighing on consumption.

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“The economy’s energy comes from pay rises,” Kishida said. “We must make the great wave of pay rises sustainable and spread it to the regions as well as to small and medium-sized businesses.”

Rengo has a history of links with opposition parties, rather than to the long-ruling LDP. It represents mostly full-time salaried workers, whose pay increases haven’t kept pace with inflation. Remuneration for contract and part-time workers has risen faster, albeit from a low base.

Main breadwinners are feeling the strain, with real incomes down 2% since Kishida took office two years ago, according to the government’s most recent household survey, in a trend that’s weighing on consumption. Household spending data for August, due Friday, are expected to show outlays fell 3.9% from a year earlier.

The Bank of Japan is watching wage trends closely as a key factor in whether inflation will reach its target level in a sustainable manner.

Kishida is facing speculation over whether he’ll call a general election in the coming weeks, even as his support rates languish near their lowest since he took office. Polls show many voters are dissatisfied with measures he’s taken to shield them from price rises. He’s set to announce a fresh economic package by the end of the month.

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—With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa.

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