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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

The political regulation of minimum wages in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom

This project analyses the political dynamics of minimum wage (MW) regulation in Germany, Japan and the UK. Academic and public discourse has been mostly concerned with possible effects of minimum wages on employment, but recently it has shifted to the question whether MWs should be used an instrument for battling in-work poverty and negative social implications of diversifying labour markets. In several countries, this shift has resulted in major changes. Germany introduced a statutory minimum wage in 2015, which represents a major departure from previous policy, while Japan’s current conservative government, once a supporter of a less rigorous minimum wage regime, has been advocating substantial wage hikes since 2014. In both countries, discussions have frequently referred to the UK as a positive example of a decision-making system that efficiently balances social (adequate living standards) and economic concerns (e.g. number of jobs). Yet, the British system has also undergone a major reform in 2016, which was also justified with the need for better social standards. The project analyses and compares the political motives for change in the three countries and looks at the degree to which governments exert influence on minimum wages. It looks at the influence of electoral pressures as well at interactions with and linkages to welfare systems and economic policy.