On March 12, Japan's cabinet approved a series of labor bills including plans to raise the nation's minimum wage in an effort to narrow the economic divide between the rich and poor. The proposed legislation would require the minimum wage to be set above the level of welfare benefit, but does not spell out by how much the minimum wage should be raised.
Japanese working more than 80 hours overtime a month would be entitled to an extra overtime wage equivalent to 50% of their regular hourly salary, up from a current minimum of 25%. The bills would impose harsher penalties on companies that flout the rules.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suffered a slide in popularity since taking office in September with a focus on regional security, constitutional revision and educational reform. Opinion polls have shown Japanese voters are more interested in economic measures and rebuilding the ill-managed public pension system, amid concerns about growing economic disparities.
Abe has called on Japanese companies to share more of their profits with workers as the economy recovers from a decade-long slump.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007