Leo Lewis extols the rise of Japanese cinema ticket prices (“The true price of a Japanese cinema ticket”, Opinion, May 11). He argues that Japan is taking steps towards reflation. He notes, however, that the furniture giant Nitori had to reverse price increases after it lost customers.

The problem is that while Japanese consumer prices have increased by more than 3 per cent between March 2022 and March 2023, earnings have increased by only 0.8 per cent. Price increases without wage increases will prove unsustainable.

Japanese are dedicated workers, as Lewis observes when discussing the delivery employee who lost his finger while working but continued making deliveries without seeking medical attention (“Grisly episode tells painful story of corporate Japan”, Opinion, May 1).

Why are such loyal, hardworking employees unable to obtain wage increases?

During Japan’s golden era of growth between the 1950s and 1980s, entrepreneurs such as Kōnosuke Matsushita, Tadashi Sasaki and Akio Morita took intelligent risks and led their employees into productive activities. This gave workers bargaining power and permitted steady wage increases.

While fiscal policy was disciplined during the golden era, Japan since 1990 has run outsized budget deficits year after year.

The public sector now plays a large role in allocating resources. To redirect workers to remunerative jobs, Japan should once again give pride of place to entrepreneurs.

Willem Thorbecke
Senior Fellow, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry
Tokyo, Japan

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