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Private-sector members of the Fiscal and Economic Policy Council will call on the government to revitalize regional economies by raising minimum wages, sources said Friday.

In the proposal, to be made at a Monday meeting of the council chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the members will argue that wage hikes will boost people’s motivation to work and that companies will see sales go up thanks to a higher headcount, informed sources said.

Given the current situation, in which the minimum wage stands at ¥1,013 in Tokyo, the highest figure in the nation, while remaining at ¥792 in the bottom seven prefectures, the members say it is necessary to narrow the gap. The bottom seven prefectures are Akita, Kochi, Oita, Okinawa, Saga, Shimane and Tottori.

At the Monday meeting, the members will also urge the government to facilitate telework in rural areas by fully reviewing regulations that emphasize face-to-face and on-site duties.

As another regional revitalization measure, they will call for an expansion of databases on unoccupied houses, including abandoned dwellings, which have been increasing sharply in many regions, so people who are looking for second homes can find them more easily.

To support small businesses and farmers severely hurt by the evaporation of tourism demand from abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic, the members will underscore the importance of helping them export their products.

Moreover, they will request that the government, which plans to set up a ¥10 trillion fund to strengthen universities’ research capabilities, to reform not only major, but also regional universities.

Their requests will also cover support for nonregular workers facing a harsher labor market due to the virus crisis.

Specifically, the members will seek to make permanent a temporary measure that has raised the monthly income ceiling of a training benefit from ¥80,000 to ¥120,000. This would allow more needy people to become eligible for free vocational training and benefits of ¥100,000 each month.

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