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Uniqlo owner gives Japan Inc a jolt with 40% wage hike


Fast Retailing’s fashion chain Uniqlo, at a shopping complex in Beijing, China May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing Co Ltd (9983.T) on Wednesday said it would raise wages by as much as 40%, focusing on its home market of Japan, where salaries have been under downward pressure for years.

The move by the casual clothing giant may serve as a wake-up call for Japan Inc ahead of annual spring labour negotiations. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has repeatedly called for companies to increase wages that have budged little in decades, after years of deflation and cost-cutting.

Uniqlo’s ability to meet Japanese consumers’ zealous demand for both relatively high quality and low prices has made it known for its “cosupa” – cost performance – turning the maker of 2,990 yen ($23) fleece jackets and 3,990 yen selvedge jeans into a global retailer and making founder Tadashi Yanai Japan’s richest man.

The company, which operates over 3,500 clothing stores worldwide, said its remuneration system would be revised from March, and that levels in Japan would be significantly raised.

Overall personnel costs in Japan would rise about 15% from the previous year, taking into account an hourly wage hike for part-time workers that year, with the expense absorbed by productivity improvement, a company spokesperson said.

Fast Retailing is due to post first-quarter earnings on Thursday. It reported record profit for the year through to August, as growth in North America and Europe compensated for a slump in its largest overseas market, China, which had been slowed by pandemic containment measures. read more

The company’s share price rose 1.4% in Tokyo morning trade, versus a 1% advance in the benchmark Nikkei (.N225) index.

($1 = 132.4400 yen)

($1 = 132.5300 yen)