Small businesses struggle with Japan wage demands

STORY: Wages are a big talking point in Japan as the country deals with a higher cost of living.

Many policymakers want to see a raise after years of stagnant pay, and a few large companies like Uniqlo have followed through.

But small businesses have struggled to keep up.

Hiromichi Akiba owns a supermarket in Japan.

His costs have risen for everything - from food to shipping and electricity.

He says he would like to raise wages for the 40 workers at his store like large companies can.

"Mathematically speaking, you would think it was ok to raise the price of your products when your costs and other expenses have gone up, but when I look my customers in the eye, I can't do it. It's a tough situation to be in right now."

Steep price rises on surging raw material costs have squeezed Japan's workers.

That after years of deflation and minimal rises.

Akiba has tried to cut costs by measures such as switching off some lights.

But he says he still can't afford to raise wages.

Composer Yoko Yamada is among his customers:

"Well, nothing's changed in Japan for 30 years regarding wages, so when the cost of goods rises sharply and wages do not, I think that clearly in future the rate of poverty will really increase. I think the government has to enact policies to keep things in balance."

Akiba's business started 31 years ago, and he's expanded to several branches.

If inflation and prices keep rising, the coming year may only get tougher for him, and his customers.