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Hopes are growing for pay hikes through this year's shuntō labor-management negotiations at a time when a barrage of price hikes for products such as gasoline and food are putting burdens on households. But gaps in earnings among companies are overshadowing the outlook amid the lingering coronavirus pandemic.

The focus of this year's talks, which went into full swing this week, is how far income distribution being pushed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can be realized, as service providers and others hit hard by the coronavirus crisis are struggling to even maintain employment. Shortages of semiconductors and soaring raw material prices are also weighing on businesses.

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