The Labor Market Is So Tight, Uniqlo Wants to Pay Top Employees $280,000

As retailers struggle to attract and retain talent amid a tightening labor market, Uniqlo is considering upping some of its workers’ salaries well into the six figures.

Fast Retailing Co., owner of the apparel and accessories retailer, has reportedly been mulling an offer of 20 to 30 million yen (or nearly $280,000) in annual wages as well as a managerial title for its top employees in the United States and Europe. The promotion, which could come after as few as three years on the job, would also apply to Japanese workers, whose earnings may total more than 10 million yen each year.

According to Japanese news agency Nikkei, the holding company is revamping its personnel framework, which could take effect as early as spring 2020.

The move comes as companies continue to face challenges in today’s contracting jobs market in both the U.S. and Japan — with the former’s low unemployment rate driving up the competition for scarce talent. (In May, the U.S. Labor Department saw unemployment hold steady at its nearly 50-year low of 3.6%.)

Japan is also facing an aging population and subsequent shortage of younger workers, with a number of tech leaders, including fashion site Zozotown’s parent company, Start Today Co., posting job opportunities that promise annual salaries as high as 100 million yen (or $944,000).

If approved, Uniqlo’s new compensation plan would be more than three times the average pay at the retailer and almost 10 times the national average in Japan among similarly employed workers.

“We want to give talented people a chance,” Fast Retailing President and Chairman Tadashi Yanai said, “and to do that, we need the appropriate training and benefits.”

According to a new survey by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 70% of employers reported difficulty finding qualified candidates for job openings, with companies now offering flexible schedules and time-off benefits in an effort to attract talent.

“Employers are having trouble finding workers with the skills needed to perform their duties. If this continues, it could hurt the bottom line and limit expansion,” Vice President Andrew Challenger said. “As employees — especially millennials and Generation Z workers — demand more work-life balance, employers will find they must respond with these offerings.”

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