Young people mount campaign to raise minimum wage, end poverty

Japan Today -- Jun 12
A student-led movement is campaigning to raise Japan's minimum wage and improve the lives of low-paid workers, many of whom struggle to meet their basic needs despite toiling long hours.
Some 1,500 people took to the streets in mid-April in Tokyo's Shinjuku area, one of Japan's business and commercial centers, to call for a uniform 1,500 yen per hour minimum wage across the country.

"Reduce inequality," "Raise wages for people working in the nursing industry" and "Don't vote for politicians who are indifferent to poverty," chanted the protestors, led by members of an anti-poverty movement called Aequitas.

Rie Fujikawa, a 25-year-old member of the group, consisting of those mainly in their 20s, said, "We want to eat something other than bean sprouts and poultry. We want to buy children what they want."

Aequitas, which means "fairness" and "justice" in Latin, was formed by university students in September 2015. Its founding members were inspired by the Fight for $15 movement in the United States, which was set up in 2012 by fast-food workers in New York City to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

According to Fujikawa, the average minimum wage in Japan was 823 yen per hour in fiscal 2016, which translates into about 1.7 million yen per year based on weekly working hours of 40 hours.

At that level of annual income, workers cannot even afford to go to hospital, she said.

With the minimum hourly wage raised to 1,500 yen, workers could earn more than 3 million yen a year, a level that would enable them to receive necessary medical services while expanding the scope of their options in life, said Fujikawa. - Japan Today