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[TOKYO] Overtime pay in Japan, a barometer of strength in corporate activity, edged up in February for the first time in nine months, while real wages remained flat, government data showed on Friday.
Overtime pay in the world's third-largest economy rose 0.6 per cent in the year to February. This was partly due to a higher number of overtime hours worked, a labour ministry official said.
Data showed inflation-adjusted real wages were flat year-on-year in February, following a revised 0.1 per cent dip in January.
Real wages have been largely unchanged since October due to a rise in prices, a labour ministry official said. Japan's core consumer prices rose 0.2 per cent in February from a year earlier.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on business leaders to support a sustainable economic recovery by raising wages, hoping this would boost private consumption. But pay hikes have remained sluggish despite Japan's tight job market and high corporate profits.
During last month's annual wage negotiations, most major Japanese companies offered the smallest hike in base pay in four years.
In a Reuters poll, an overwhelming majority of Japanese companies said they will raise wages at a slower pace than they did last year.
Labour ministry data on Friday showed wage earners' cash earnings, in nominal terms, rose 0.4 per cent in February year-on-year, up for the fifth straight month.
Regular pay, which accounts for the bulk of total pay and determines base salaries, increased for an eighth straight month, rising an annual 0.2 per cent in February.