Over the last 10 years, Japan's 14 million part-time workers cut their working hours by more than 6 percent. They now work about 4.5 hours a day.

That's a blow to a country that's struggling with a declining population, and to a government seeking to increase people's take-home pay and to promote greater workforce participation by women.

Ironically, the government's push to raise wages may be forcing many people to work less. That's because more than 75 percent of part-time workers are women, and married part-time workers are eligible for tax, social welfare and pension benefits if their annual salary is under certain limits. When an increase in hourly pay risk pushing people over the threshold, a logical response is to cut work hours.