Photo/IllutrationShunsuke Mutai, a Lower House member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, shakes hands with labor union representatives at a gathering Sept. 30 organized by Zenroren, the National Confederation of Trade Unions. (Ken Sakakibara)

In a rare move, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was represented at a gathering organized by Zenroren, the National Confederation of Trade Unions, to discuss raising the minimum hourly wage in rural areas.

Zenroren has long been known for its affiliation with the Japanese Communist Party, so the appearance at the meeting of Shunsuke Mutai, a Lower House member of the LDP, was a surprise.

However, the topic of the Sept. 30 meeting in Tokyo was something both the ruling and opposition parties can agree upon: creating a uniform minimum wage for all prefectures in Japan.

Parties associated with Rengo, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, also took part in the meeting.

Although there were slight differences in their arguments, most parties included raising the minimum wage in their campaign platforms for the summer Upper House election.

“Unless the minimum wage is made the same throughout the nation, there will be a further concentration of personnel in Tokyo, and the rural regions will further decline in strength,” said Mutai, secretary-general of the LDP league of lawmakers promoting a uniform minimum wage.

Mutai, who represents a Nagano Prefecture district, said he will try to push the issue to the forefront of the LDP’s policies.

A government advisory panel’s recommendations for this fiscal year showed that Tokyo will have the highest minimum wage, at 1,013 yen ($9.35) an hour, 223 yen higher than the rate in the 15 prefectures with the lowest minimum wage.

Concerns have been raised that a standard minimum wage could create an additional burden on small businesses. Some experts said the move could in turn lead to a decrease in employment in rural areas.

Regarding such concerns, Yoshinori Suematsu of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said, “The central government should provide support measures worth several trillions of yen.”

Other lawmakers, including Mutai, said there was a need to provide support to small businesses.

Taro Yamamoto, the head of Reiwa Shinsengumi, sent a video message to the gathering.

The only parties not represented at the gathering were Komeito and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party).