© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man with a smartphone riding on an escalator is reflected in a glass window at a business district in Tokyo February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s real wages fell in February for an eleventh month, labour ministry data showed on Friday, although the rate of the decrease slowed thanks to government energy subsidies aimed at curbing consumer inflation.
While major Japanese firms concluded annual labour talks with the largest pay rises in about three decades, higher prices have demoralised consumers as the world’s third-largest economy faces uncertainty from a global slowdown and a new central bank chief.
Inflation-adjusted real wages, a gauge of households’ purchasing power, dropped by 2.6% in February from a year earlier, following a 4.1% fall in January that marked the fastest decline in nearly nine years.
Total cash earnings, or nominal wages, posted a 1.1% year-on-year gain in February, faster than a 0.8% growth in January.
Yet the nominal pay growth fell short of the 3.9% consumer inflation rate used to calculate pay in real terms, which includes fresh food but excludes owners’ equivalent rent, although the pace of inflation cooled from 5.1% in January, due to the effect of government subsidies to curb utility bills.
Overtime pay, a gauge of business activity, rose 1.7% year-on-year in February, after a revised 0.5% growth the previous month.
Special payments fell for a second month by 1.7% in February, after a revised 1.3% drop the previous month. The indicator tends to be volatile in months outside the twice-a-year bonus seasons of November to January and June to August.
The following table shows preliminary data for monthly incomes and number of workers in February:
Payments (amount) (yr/yr % change)
Total cash earnings 271,851 yen ($2,072) +1.1
-Monthly wage 267,061 yen +1.2
-Regular pay 248,254 yen +1.1
-Overtime pay 18,807 yen +1.7
-Special payments 4,790 yen -1.7
Number of workers (million) (yr/yr % change)
Overall 51.609 +1.8
-General employees 35.106 +0.8
-Part-time employees 16.503 +3.6
The ministry defines “workers” as 1) those employed for more than one month at a company that employed more than five people, or 2) those employed on a daily basis or had less than a one-month contract but had worked more than 18 days during the two months before the survey was conducted, at a company that employs more than five people.
To view the full tables, see the labour ministry’s website at:
($1 = 131.2600 yen)