Japan January real wages flat, weighed on by rising vegetable prices

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese wages were flat in January on an annual inflation-adjusted basis, government data showed on Thursday, with rising prices of fresh vegetables offsetting gains in nominal pay, probably hurting households’ purchasing power.

The labour ministry data showed the annual change in inflation-adjusted real wages stood at 0.0 percent in January, following a revised 0.1 percent increase in December.

In nominal terms, wage earners’ cash earnings rose 0.5 percent in January on the year, maintaining the same pace of gains as the two previous months. Special payments, which include winter bonus, fell 3.7 percent.

The data came days before labour unionists and management of big firms are due on March 15 to agree on the annual spring wage negotiations.

The so-called “shunto” wage talks are expected to result in smaller gains than last year as Japan Inc resists Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s calls for substantially raising wages to support a sustainable economic recovery.

Underscoring a steady pick-up in wages, regular pay, which accounts for the bulk of total pay and determines base salaries, increased an annual 0.8 percent in January from a year earlier, rising for a seventh straight month.

That marked the biggest annual increase since March 2000, helped by a slight decline in the share of low-wage part-timers.

Overtime pay, a barometer of strength in corporate activity, rose 0.2 percent in the year to January, up for the first time in eight months.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Clarence Fernandez