- Japan lifted COVID-19 restrictions in October, so restaurants can now serve alcohol and stay open later.
- But eateries are finding it hard to get help and have few options but to hike wages.
- Part-time food service workers in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya earned 1,050 Japanese yen ($9.20) an hour last month — up 2.4% on-year.
New part-time restaurant hires in Japan are getting their highest wages on record as competition for kitchen staff and servers heats up amid the country's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan endured nearly six months of restrictions to contain the COVID-19 outbreak before they were lifted last month. Restaurants can now serve alcohol and stay open later, but operators say they have a problems staffing their shops.
A newly opened pub in Tokyo offered new hires 1,100 yen ($9.60) an hour when the location first started operating but was pressured to up its rate, reported the Nikkei.
"At first we tried 1,041 yen ($9.10), but we raised it after finding out that other businesses were offering 1,050 yen ($9.20)," said a representative from restaurant group Natty Swanky, per the Nikkei.
Overall, part-time food service workers in the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya earned 1,050 Japanese yen ($9.20) an hour last month — up 2.4% from October last year, according to a survey from staffing group Recruit Holdings.
Some restaurant owners are trying out other perks to bring in workers, too.
Pub operator Sanko Marketing Foods has started paying bonuses of 10,000 yen to 20,000 yen ($87.60 to $175) to former part-timers who return to work or who refer friends, according to the Japanese newspaper.
At least one pub has to put its late-night operations on hold at some locations until they can find more help, the Nikkei added.
Even before the pandemic, Japan was already facing a labor shortage due to a rapidly aging society and a large pool of women who leave their jobs after marriage due to cultural expectations. Now, the service staff shortage is compounded by a shift in the labor force, as job cuts during the pandemic have forced some restaurants and hotel workers to switch industries.
Nursing homes have managed to benefit from this trend, even if wages are not that competitive, Reuters reported last month.
"It's true wages are relatively low in the nursing-care industry. But many job-seekers want stability after seeing the damage inflicted on eateries and other service-sector firms," said Takayuki Nakayama, head of Crie, a company offering training in nursing care.
"I like working in nursing care and it's stable," said Toshiki Kurimata, a former masseur who switched to caregiving, per Reuters. "There aren't age limits on the work and you can find work even if, like me, you are inexperienced."