A move by leading door-to-door parcel delivery firm Yamato Transport Co. to review its customer services and seek its first sweeping rate hike in more than 25 years should lead consumers and firms alike to think about the ways in which the service industry does business in an economy with a growing manpower shortage. The problem confronting the company that enjoys a dominant share of the market reminds us that business competition based on increased convenience and low prices for customers at the expense of a greater burden for workers isn't sustainable.

Behind Yamato's move is a rapid surge in the volume of deliveries due to a boom in online shopping and a growing manpower shortage, which is forcing delivery drivers to work excessively long hours to cope with the workload. The company plans to limit designated-hour delivery service to ease the burden on its drivers. The hike in delivery rates, to be effective by fall, is expected to reduce the overall volume of parcels that workers must handle.

According to the transport ministry, the number of parcels delivered door-to-door nationwide reached 3.75 billion in fiscal 2015 — an increase of roughly 50 percent since 2000, when online shopping first took off in Japan. The volume increase has been fueled by competition among major online shopping companies to win customers by offering more convenient and rapid services, including free shipping for volume purchases and premium-service customers.