• Kyodo

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The labor ministry on Friday urged companies to raise wages to boost the middle class, increase consumption and stimulate the economy, noting that over a third of the populace is now in the low-income bracket.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry also advised promoting nonregular workers to full status by investing more in manpower, its 2012 white paper on labor and the economy said.

Middle-class households — singles earning ¥3 million to ¥6 million a year or families earning between ¥5 million and ¥10 million — shrank to 48.1 percent of the population in 2009, down 2.9 points from 1999. The lower class meanwhile ballooned 8.6 points to 34.1 percent, it said.

The trend reflects the boom in hiring nonregular or contract employees to cut labor costs, which has caused consumption to stagnate and slowed economic growth, the white paper said.

Based on an estimate that around 3.55 million nonregular workers want to become full-time staff, the paper said promoting them will boost overall income by ¥10 trillion and household spending by ¥6.3 trillion.

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