“Positions remain open for several months, leaving some restaurants heavily understaffed,” said Yamamoto, personnel head at the sushi-chain operator in Osaka. “The labor shortage has worsened to the point we have no choice but to increase pay.”
While nationwide pay fell in the year through January, and will probably rise less than 1 percent this year, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, smaller and mid-sized employers such as hand-cleaner maker Saraya Co. are considering salary gains of 2 percent or more. The nation is within a few years of an overheated job market that makes inflation, not deflation, Japan’s challenge, economist Masaaki Kanno says.
“By 2017, the focus of the argument will shift to how to contain inflation — once the fire is set, it spreads really quickly,” said Kanno, chief Japan economist in Tokyo at JPMorgan Chase & Co., who previously worked at the country’s central bank. “In two or three years, the wage increases will be more remarkable due to the labor market heating up.”
Kanno predicts the number of open positions for every job seeker will climb to 1.5 by 2017, from 1.04 in January, a figure unseen since 1974 — when then-Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was implementing an unprecedented public-spending boom.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to wring deflation out of the world’s third-largest economyhave relied on monetary expansion that’s sent the yen down 15 percent against the dollar since the start of 2013. With nuclear reactors shuttered after the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, energy costs have driven gains in consumer prices, which rose 1.4 percent in the year to January.