One of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initial economic arrows was aimed at pulling Japan out of deflation to move closer to the Bank of Japan’s 2% target. While that is yet to be achieved there are some encouraging on-the-ground indicators: Wages are going up as evidenced by the data on part-time workers. This is the first sector of the labour force to see wage increases because corporations are more reluctant to increase the compensation of full-time and permanent staff in the early stages of a recovery. Nevertheless, this demonstrates how much employers are willing to pay to attract the ‘marginal worker’, so the fact these pay packets have been expanding is a positive sign.
The inflation rate (CPI) minus energy and food is also close to 1%. We call this the ‘core core’ reading and I believe it is a more important metric to keep an eye on than CPI. Additionally, living in Tokyo, inflation feels higher still. The University of Tokyo Daily Price Project, which tracks daily point of sales data, currently shows a reading of around 1.5%, which feels much closer to reality. Abe has made an impressive start towards an inflationary environment; a commendable achievement against a global backdrop of prices under pressure.
Miyuki Kashima, BNY Mellon Japan