Japan’s Young Workers Get a Lift, and Its Leaders Profit


“All the parties are promising things like getting rid of school fees,” said Ami Miyamoto, 25, an undecided voter who works for a recruiting firm in Tokyo. “I worry that’s just piling up bills for the future.”

Ms. Miyamoto said business at her firm was booming, as a shrinking work force means that companies are scrambling to find staff. But she was skeptical that Mr. Abe deserved the credit.

“Demographics is the biggest factor,” she said. “I don’t know what Abenomics has to do with it.”

A broader line of attack against Mr. Abe has been that his policies have done little to enrich the average family. Finding a job might be easier, particularly for flexible part-time and temporary workers, but in most parts of the economy wage gains have been small or offset by a higher cost of living.

Hikaru Kisaka, a 55-year-old part-time restaurant worker, said she had recently switched employers, netting a pay increase of about $1.80 an hour. But she said that her husband, whose full-time job generates most of her family’s income, has not had a raise in years.

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Mr. Abe has pushed a message of spreading prosperity on the campaign trail, which could be enough to extend his governing coalition’s five-year hold on power.

Credit
Toru Hanai/Reuters

“I don’t get the sense that the economy is improving,” she said. “I don’t feel change.”

Ms. Koike, the Tokyo governor, has been described variously as a supply-side conservative and a populist. She has floated several experimental policy proposals, such as offering citizens a universal basic income or taxing corporate cash reserves instead of profits, an idea intended to induce companies to cycle more of their earnings back into the economy.

Her pitch does not seem to be resonating. Polls show support for her party, the Party of Hope, is stuck in the single digits. A more left-leaning party, the Constitutional Democratic Party, has gained some traction, but over all, the Liberal Democratic Party appears to be on course for a landslide that could keep Mr. Abe in power until 2021.

“I don’t see any choice other than Abe,” said Takafumi Sakai, 31, who works in sales at a Chinese-owned information technology company. “There’s nobody else who jumps out as an alternative.”

Mr. Fukuyama, the delivery driver, has been luckier than most. A boom in online shopping has increased demand for delivery services. Yamato and other companies have no choice but to lift pay sharply. Mr. Fukuyama said that he had voted for the Liberal Democratic Party in the past and that, although he had not made up his mind this time, he saw little reason to overturn the status quo.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s in charge,” he said. “So rather than leave things to someone unpredictable, I think it’s better to stay the course.”

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