Japan auto giants to give workers a bonus boost thanks to weaker yen

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's top automakers are set to give tens of thousands of employees an annual bonus bump as a weaker yen helped their bottom line while Tokyo presses firms to hike staff pay to lift the economy.

Toyota, Japan's biggest car firm, said on Wednesday it would accept union demands for a richer bonus with the Camry-maker agreeing to inflate the annual payment by about 10 per cent to an average 2.05 million yen (S$26,600).

The bonus, which is in addition to workers' regular salaries, would be made to both factory employees and while-collar staff, said Toyota, which is also the world's largest vehicle producer.

It would reportedly be Toyota's biggest bonus in five years.

Japan's number-two automaker Nissan will bump its bonus by about 2.3 per cent to 2.04 million yen, reports said, while number-three producer Honda also said it would offer a bonus boost, without disclosing details.

In January, the country's top three automakers posted record sales for 2012 as the trio put Japan's damaging quake-tsunami disaster in their rear-view mirror, while a weakening yen helped their bottomline.

The unit, which hit a record high around 75 on the dollar in late 2011, hurt Japan's auto industry by making their vehicles less competitive overseas and shrinking foreign-earned income converted back to yen.

The unit's decline in recent months - it traded above 95 on the dollar Wednesday - has come on the back of a new government in Japan vowing to fix the world's third-largest economy with a mix of big spending and aggressive monetary easing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also asked Japanese firms to lift their employee pay as a way to boost disposable income and reverse years of deflation, which has crimped private spending and business investment.

Other major firms, including Hitachi and Fuji Heavy Industries, have decided to offer employees a pay rise, Japanese media reported.

Seven & i Holdings, which operates 7-Eleven convenience stores across Japan, has said it would hike salaries for some 53,000 employees while rival operators Lawson and FamilyMart announced bonus increases for staff.

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