Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday called for wage hikes ahead of annual labor negotiations early next year as he seeks to achieve his policy goal of wealth distribution.

In a meeting of Japan's powerful business lobby known as Keidanren, Kishida said, "To distribute (wealth) by raising wages is to invest in the future."

The prime minister, who took office in October with the slogan of creating a new form of capitalism, sees accelerating wage growth in Japan as the key. He has been calling for an over 3% pay hike by companies whose earnings have recovered to pre-pandemic levels as annual shuntō wage negotiations end before the next business year begins in April.