Japanese profits surge, but not wages
wsj.com -- Jan 11
Bosses hold back on pay raises for workers, creating a major stumbling block for Japan's 'Abenomics' strategy for economic growth

If there is any boss who is in a position to give his workers a raise, it ought to be Yasuyuki Yoshinaga of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

Propelled by a red-hot U.S. market, the maker of Subaru cars is set to post a record profit this fiscal year of about $3.5 billion, more than triple the figure three years ago.

But when asked about raises, Mr. Yoshinaga offered that he would think about it. "I'd like to pay back our employees for their hard work," he said, but "we need to be cautious about fixed costs." He added, "I'm not being stingy."

Whatever adjective one prefers, chief executives like Mr. Yoshinaga are one of the biggest challenges for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he faces a make-or-break year for his Abenomics growth program.

Corporate profits are strongly up, and even inflation has tiptoed into positive territory, when excluding the effects of plunging oil prices. Attracted by the weaker yen triggered by Abenomics, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan is likely to come close to 20 million when the final figure for 2015 is announced this month, blowing away the previous record by more than 6 million.

But Mr. Abe's plan to lift Japan permanently out of its quarter-century of stagnation has always counted on more than that. He envisions a virtuous cycle, where higher profits translate into higher wages and more spending.

The wages part is where the cycle is breaking down. Government data released Friday showed that real wages fell 0.4% in November from a year earlier, ending a four-month string of modest rises.

Wage negotiations in Japan traditionally take place in February and March ahead of April 1, when the fiscal year begins for most companies. Facing elections for parliament's upper house in the summer, Mr. Abe has stepped up pressure on companies to raise wages and spend some of their nearly $2 trillion in cash.

News source: wsj.com
Nov 19
Police in Tokyo on Saturday arrested an unemployed 42-year-old man of no fixed address on suspicion of killing a 61-year-old homeless man on a riverbank in Katsushika Ward. (Japan Today)
Nov 19
A man died Saturday after falling off a cliff while competing in a trail running race in Saitama Prefecture, police said. (Japan Times)
Nov 19
The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, glows at night during a trial illumination on Friday. (the-japan-news.com)
Nov 19
Despite their magical reputation, shooting stars are just pieces of space debris from millimeters to a few centimeters thick that fly into Earth’s atmosphere and brightly burn up into nothing. (rocketnews24.com)
Nov 19
Chiba Prefectural Police have arrested a 33-year-old man for allegedly selling cash above face value using marketplace app Mercari and collecting interest exceeding the legal interest rate, reports TV Asahi (tokyoreporter.com)
Nov 18
Japan’s national broadcaster NHK has unveiled this year’s lineup for its annual New Year’s Eve music show "Kohaku Uta Gassen" (Red and White Song Battle), featuring 10 new groups and singers. (Japan Today)
Nov 18
Yokozuna Grand Champion Harumafuji has reportedly told police that he hit a lower-ranked wrestler with his bare hands, not with a beer bottle as was reported. (NHK)
Nov 18
An apology by a Japanese railroad operator for a train's early departure has attracted the attention of foreign media. (NHK)
Nov 18
The overall number of crimes committed in Japan continued to drop in 2016, falling below the 1 million mark for the first time in the postwar era, according to the annual White Paper on Crime released Friday by the Justice Ministry. (Japan Times)
Nov 18
After beginning service in Japan in 2011, Naver Corporation’s Line messaging app quickly become one of the most popular ways to stay connected to personal acquaintances. (Japan Today)