No Japan-wide minimum wage planned to tackle urban-rural gap ahead of foreign influx, says Suga

Japan Times -- Mar 08
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied a media report Thursday that the government is considering introducing a minimum wage for specific industrial sectors that would apply to workers nationwide, regardless of where they live.

Earlier in the day, labor ministry officials had explained the idea to ruling lawmakers, but Suga said the ministry isn’t considering the move at this time.

The government is set to loosen restrictions on the entry of foreign workers from April to tackle serious labor shortages resulting from an aging population and falling birthrate, and the idea for the minimum wage regulation is seen as an effort to address the urban-rural wage gap that could result in the concentration of laborers in large cities.

Currently, hourly minimum wages are decided by each prefectural government based on the region’s economic situation. The figures are revised every fiscal year after a ministry advisory panel comes up with a rough target for wage hikes sometime in the summer.

In the current fiscal year ending March 31, the national average of the hourly minimum wage stood at ¥874, with Tokyo logging the highest at ¥985 and Kagoshima Prefecture marking the lowest at ¥761.

Some critics say that rural areas could continue to struggle with labor shortages unless the urban-rural minimum wage gap is properly managed.

- Japan Times