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i10-09-2020jZenroren reiterates its call for national minimum wage

Kurosawa Koichi
Secretary General
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)

The nation’s regional minimum wages for fiscal 2020 (starting in October) were determined after the conclusion of deliberation on September 8 at the Hiroshima regional minimum wages council.

This year, the Central Minimum Wages Council stopped short of presenting benchmarks for regional minimum wages, disregarding the government goal for the first time since 2002.
In “Rank A,” minimum hourly wages will rise by 1 yen in two prefectures, and 2 yen in two prefectures. Tokyo and Osaka maintain the current levels. In “Rank B,” two prefectures effected a 2-yen rise and six prefecture a 1 yen rise. Shizuoka, Kyoto and Hiroshima prefectures will get no raise. In “Rank C” there will be a 3 yen rise in one prefecture, 2-yen rise in two prefectures, and 1 yen rise in 9 prefectures. There will be no rise in Hokkaido and Yamaguchi prefectures. In “Rank D” eight prefectures will get a raise of 3 yen, and 8 prefectures 2 yen.
Without the Central Minimum Wages Council recommending an amount of minimum wages hike, 40 of the 47 prefectures (85.1 percent) decided to give a raise reflecting the urgent call in in local areas for reducing gaps between regions as well as for a rise in minimum wages. The regional gap was reduced by two yen to 221 yen, but Tokyo’s minimum wage was kept unchanged ostensibly to narrow the gap by maintaining the current levels for the highest prefecture in each rank.
Clearly, the present ranking system, which effectively help hold down any substantial hikes, has limits.

However, we are angered by the weighted average rise of only 1 yen, from 901 yen to 902 yen. That’s up only 0.1 percent from the previous year (up 27 yen or 3.1 percent from the previous year). The Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare’s survey on wage hikes for 2020 starting in October shows that the minimum hourly wages will rise by 1.2 percent. A large number of people were forced out of work amid the financial crisis triggered by the Lehman Brothers collapse. In 2009, the average weighted minimum wage increase was 1.4 percent, up 0.2 percent from the previous year. 2010 saw a rise of 2.4 percent, up 0.1 percent from the previous year. This means that the wages of workers paid as low as minimum wage levels remain unchanged, and that income gaps are going to be wider.

Zenroren has recently conducted a nationwide survey on the minimum cost of living and found that workers who are only paid minimum wages cannot afford to maintain their living. It also proved that there exist little gaps between regions in the cost of living. Using the findings of this survey, we are demanding a minimum wage rise of at least 1,500 yen per hour so that everyone can live a decent life by working eight hours. This is a pressing demand of the workers who can only earn their living by working and has been gaining social consensus.

It’s evident that the current system of determining the minimum wages has reached the limits. The present minimum wage is the hotbed of various problems, including population concentration in cities; depopulation and ageing of local areas, the battered local economies, and low wages in Japan. Zenroren, in its Action Program adopted at the time founding in 1989, put up the demand for a national minimum wage system, and has called for public support and expanded social consensus. It is pointed out that the current system is an impediment to fair competition among businesses. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare must take our opinion seriously.

Zenroren demand a shift in government economic policy stop serving the best interests of the financial circles and large corporations, which has been followed by the Abe administration, and adopt a people-first economic policy that will help raise the workers’ living standards standard of living and support small- and medium-sized businesses. It demands the establishment of a national minimum wage system. Zenroren will put all its energy of organization to promote the movement to build up national consensus to realize the demand as early as possible.

 
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