• Kyodo

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Twenty-nine percent of small and medium-size enterprises have raised basic pay this business year, up from 11.4 percent last year, the government said Wednesday.

The increase, though far smaller than the 44.4 percent of large companies offering better pay, indicates that wage hikes to keep workers on board have spread among smaller firms as the labor shortage has worsened during the current economic recovery, officials said.

Nearly 750 small and midsize companies, capitalized at less than ¥1 billion, and 637 large companies responded in the poll, which was conducted by regional Finance Ministry bureaus in May.

Among the country’s 11 regions, northern Kyushu had the highest rate of smaller firms raising basic pay — at 47.5 percent of the responding companies — followed by a rate of 45.9 percent in Chugoku. In both of those regions, the rate for smaller firms raising wages surpassed the rate for large companies.

The lowest share was 18.0 percent in the Kinki region, which includes Osaka. The share in the Kanto region came to 27.0 percent, slipping below the national average of 29.0 percent.