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  • 2019.11.11 Monday
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Immigration vs. Automation

  As the Japanese economy has been recovering, the employment situation has been improving. Moreover, many industries, such as construction and nursing, suffer from labor shortages, and are demanding immigration to supply the needed workers. However, I’m dead set against such an easy solution because, in the not-too-distant future, a labor surplus will emerge as automation and computerization progress.                                                  In the 1980s. Japanese carmakers started deploying robots on their assembly lines. Since then, huge strides have been made in automation. There is already an android that provides customer service at the front of a hotel.                                                 The average age of Japanese farmers has already surpassed 65 years old. Agriculture is a sector that seriously needs automation. In fact, robots are now planting rice and picking strawberries. In my opinion, large corporations should be allowed to develop mass-scale farming with automation to supply farm produce at more reasonable prices to compete against cheap imported foods.                                                                                              As Japan’s population ages, robots are expected to play a crucial role in healthcare and nursing. Like it or not, robots are going to take on more tasks in various fields.                                                                                                    In 2013, researchers at Oxford University forecast that 47% of the jobs in the U.S. would be automated by 2033. The study showed that computerization would probably elbow out paralegals, administrative staff, telemarketers and a whole host of other white-collar workers.                                                                                      Robots will perform more non-routine jobs in the future. They might undertake a growing variety of tasks that require the ability to interact with humans, solve problems, and even show creativity.                                                                                We cannot stop progress. Automation increases efficiency, undertakes unpopular tasks, and improves our lives.                                                                                         I assume that, in the near future, few blue-collar workers will be employed, regular workers will be greatly reduced, and growing number of customer service positions will be replaced by robots. Japan doesn’t need immigrants for such jobs.                   

A National Referendum in Japan

  After World war 2, irresponsibility became prevalent in Japan. Most Japanese misunderstand that freedom and responsibility are intertwined.                                                                           The United Kingdom decided to leave the EU by national referendum. I presume that the U.K. will decline not only economically but also in terms of political clout. Still, I'm all for referendums. Citizens should decide important matters by themselves. The results reflect the will of people.                                      Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution requires a two-third supermajority in both the Upper House and the Lower House to hold a national referendum for a constitution revision. Hence, the referendum has never been conducted for 70 years since the constitution was enforced in 1947.                                  The ruling coalition, composed of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komei Party, won a sweeping victory in the Upper House election on July 10th. Still, the coalition could not acquire a two-third majority. However, there are other conservative parties:the Osaka Restoration Association and the Party for Japanese Kokoro. If the ruling coalition ties up with both of them, a two-third supermajority can most likely be achieved in the Upper House. And, in the Lower House, the ruling coalition already has over two-third majority. There is a reasonable chance that a national referendum will be held for the first time.                                    Changing Article 9 has been the sole controversial item for decades. However, regarding constitution revision, there are other more recent items.                                   A hot topic is same-sex marriage. Article 24 stipulates that a marriage can be formed based ONLY on an agreement of BOTH sexes. When the constitution was drafted, there wasn't such a concept as same-sex marriage. And, since then, the constitution has never revised. Thus, under the present constitution, same-sex marriage cannot be permitted in Japan.                                   Some environmentalists insist that environmental rights should be articulated in the constitution. Such a right also emerged after the constitution was enacted.                                   Some feminists demand the right of self-determination to allow abortion. And, some claim death with dignity.                                    Personally, I'm deadset against abortion because it is a kind of murder. Still, I'm not opposed to the debate itself. Article 21 guarantees freedom of speech. Even if the content of the speech is inexcusable or illegal, any opinion should be allowed to be expressed.                                     Prior to a referendum, the details on the issues and their results should be fully explained to the citizens. And, enough time should be given so that voters can come to a clear decision. In this sense, the British referendum was fast and sloppy.                                    Once a referendum is held, whatever the result should be followed. Citizens should exercise their voting rights responsibly. With freedom comes responsibility.                                

Democracy vs. Aristocracy

  18-or-19-year-old citizens are now able to vote for the Upper House elections on July 10th. In reality, however, the majority of young people are indifferent to politics. Not only in Japan but also globally, politicians are hated because of their corrupt nature. I believe this is the root of the youth’s apathy to politics.                                                                         Tokyo prefectural governor Yoichi Masuzoe, accused of using government money for personal use and other fraudulent acts, resigned on June 20th. Mr. Masuzoe is superbly smart, but he is from a poor family. It might be inevitable that he is corrupt in terms of money. I believe this is one of the reasons Donald Trump is popular. He is so wealthy that he won’t feel the impulse to misappropriate public money.                                              In ancient Greece, aristocrats volunteered to be engaged in politics for nothing. Because they were above the frey, they had no motivation for embezzlement or bribes.                                                                 On the other hand, the upper-class don’t know average people’s lives.                                           There are the Upper House and the Lower House in Japan. The Upper House stems from the House of Peers since the Meiji era. In my opinion, we should reform the Upper House to something like “House of Lords” whose members are engaged in politics for no monetary gain.                                        Mr. Miki Watanabe, the founder of major food service chain, is already acting as a Diet member. Mr. Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder of Internet giant Rakuten, seems interested in politics. Mr. Kazuo Inamori, the founder of the Kyocera Group, is respected not only in Japan but also in China. Different from politicians, there are patriotic and respectable persons in the business world. I believe that they will gladly contribute to Japan for nothing.                                                                         It is said, “ If a politician loses an election, he will be an ordinary man.” I don’ agree with it Most politicians are living on salaries from our taxes. When they lose an election, they are jobless. Such people are inevitably corrupt.                                                                    

The Upper House Election

  The Upper House election will take place on July 10th. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming at securing a two-third supermajority in order to revise the Japanese Constitution. However, half of Japanese citizens currently want to maintain the present constitution. Still, the U.S. presidential election might sway public sentiment.                                      69 years have passed without any revision to the Japanese Constitution since it came into force in 1947. According to a survey conducted by Nikkei Shimbun and TV Tokyo from April 29th through May 1st, 50% of 991 respondents stated that they wanted to maintain the present constitution as it is. Last year, the number of citizens who wanted to maintain the present constitution (44%) outnumbered advocates for revision (42%) for the first time. And, this year, those who want to leave the constitution alone reached as high as 50%.                                           Based on age brackets, the majority of respondents in their thirties, forties and fifties desired to revise the constitution. On the other hand, not only those in their sixties and seventies but also those from 18 years through twenties want to maintain the present constitution as it is.                       On May 4th, the U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump expressed his opinion that Japan should pay for all the cost of the U.S. forces deployed in Japan, or the U.S. would withdraw the U.S. forces. Japan disburses yearly 190 billion yen (about 1.9 billion dollars) while the total cost allocated in 2016 is 5.5 billion dollars. Japan already pays for nearly 35% of the cost.                         I hope that the U.S. forces will gradually withdraw form Japan meanwhile Japan should reinforce its military forces. I believe that Japan should become a normal country that can defend its citizens and territory by itself.                                                For the time being, Prime minister Abe should soften his stance on the revision of the constitution. The trend might change drastically after the next U.S. president is elected.                                 

A Casino in Japan


 Japan logged a current account surplus of 8,183.5 billion
yen in the first half of the year, recovering to the
pre-3.11-quake level. Still, Japanユs public debt surpasses 200% of its GDP. Some insist that Japan should construct a casino in order to generate tax revenue. I'm definitely opposed to such an idea.

 Macao was repatriated to China in 1999. As the sole legitimate gambling locality in China, Macao is now the most lucrative gambling zone in the world. Casinos account for nearly 50% of Macao's GDP.

 Due to the influx of Chinese money, however, the housing prices soared. Obviously, the local residents objected. Over 20,000 citizens demonstrated in May 2014, even though the total population of Macao is only about 600,000,

 In addition, Chinese President Xi Jingping, adopted the anti-corruption policy, which devastated the casinos. The Chinese leader urged Macao to diversify its economy for sustainable growth.

 Other places have had problems with casinos as well. Laosユ per-capita GDP is only 1,480 USD. Its economy totally depends on China. In 2003, Beton was designated as a special economic zone for casinos and commercial enterprises. The rural village prospered with nearly 10,000 migrants from China.

 However, its public safety suddenly deteriorated. Murders were frequent. In 2011, the Laos government abolished casinos. Then, Chinese-financed hotels and businesses withdrew. The isolated village soon fell into ruin.

 On the other hand, South Koreans accept casinos despite the social problems. In 2000, South Korea constructed its sole casino for its citizens in Sabuk, Kangwon-do. Subuk had been a successful coal-mining town in the1970s. However, as the coal mines declined, its population decreased from 140,000 to 40,000. The financially strapped city promoted whatever measures it could to generate income.

 The managing company of casinos now employs 3,600 employees, most of whom are local residents. Including its ancillary businesses, the casinos generated 6,000 jobs. 6 to 8 million citizens visit the casinos every year. Reportedly, 70 to 80% of the local revenue is derived from casino visitors.

 Among several deleterious effects, the casinos incurred rampant gambling addiction. Many citizens, including doctors, teachers, and public servants, had their lives destroyed by gambling addiction. And, the atmosphere of corruption caused the local authorities to relocate an elementary school in the area. Nevertheless, the local residents accept the casinos because of jobs and tax revenue.

 I'm deadset against constructing a casino in Japan. Public safety is far more important than money. Japan already has a pachinko problem. We don't need more trouble. If gambling addiction spreads among Japanese, Japan will be ruined.



How to Raise the Birth Rate


 I believe that Japan's population should be at least cut in half. Japan has a population of 126 million. This is more than 3 times that of California (38 million) even though Japan (377,972 km2) is smaller than California (over 400,000 km2). In addition, 67% of Japan's land is covered by forests. Californians claim that California is over-crowded. Therefore, Japan's population should be less than California's, or at most around 50 million in my opinion.

 However, I can understand that many Japanese worry about the survival of the social welfare system. They are concerned about Japan's low birth rate which leads to population decline. And, they focus on increasing the number of nurseries. Japan's birth rate is 1.4. If they rally hope to raise the birth rate, Japan should follow the example of France, only whose birth rate is exceeds 2.0 among developing countries.

 France offers a monthly child benefit of 500 euros (about 542 USD) to families with 2 or more children. If the mother works part-time, they receive 350 euros. Owing to the benefit,
France's birth rate has improved since 1995. Norway, Finland, and Denmark introduced similar benefits.

 In addition, France offers a family allowance and an infant allowance. A family with 2 or more children is given 31,000 euros (about 33,583 USD) every 2 years. What is more, 80% of them (limited by their income) accept about 8,000 euros until the child becomes 3 years old. Thus, in France, mothers can stay with their children at home.

 On the contrary, Japan is preparing nurseries so that mother can work. In Tokyo, however, nurseries cost 190,000 yen (about 1,583 USD) per month per child. A maternity leave allowance is far more economical.

 And, in France, taxes are based on the household income divided by the number of family members (first 2 children are counted as 0.5 person each). Therefore, the more children they have, the less their taxes become. The Japanese government should reconsider its tax system if it plans to raise the birth rate.

 The percentage of GDP devoted to benefit for families is only 0.75%, nearly as low as the U.S.'s (0.7), while France's is 3.02%, the U.K.'s is 2.93%, and Sweeden's is 3.54%.

 Owing to Abenomics, Japan's economy has revitalized, and employment opportunities are improving. Nevertheless, the number of welfare recipients has not decreased. I hope that the Abe Cabinet reconsiders the way it uses our taxes.


The Favorable Wind for Japan's Economy


 Kyoto was chosen as the best travel destination by the American magazine 'Travel and Leisure' in 2014 and 2015 consecutively. An increasing number of travelers visit Japan, stimulating Japan's economy.

 From January to June, 9.13 million foreigners visited Japan, an increase of 46% compared to the previous period last year. Chinese travelers almost doubled to 2.17 million, Koreans increased by 43%, and Taiwanese, 29%. Japan's Department of Tourism anticipates the number will total 18 million by the end of this year, from 13.41 million in 2014. Japan's GDP is expected to get a boost of some 4 trillion yen (about 32.5 billion USD).

 Despite the China's economic recession, hordes of Chinese have been visiting Japan to shop. Expensive brand name goods are selling well. On the 22nd, a huge cruiser entered the Port of Sakaiminato in Tottori Prefecture, and its 3,200 Chinese passengers went shopping on 90 or so buses.

 The primary destination for foreign travelers in Japan used to be mainly Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, which is called a 'golden triangle', or Mt. Fuji. As visitors returned, however, their destinations diversified. Many anime fans visit the scenes of famous anime. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Japanese stationmaster mascot cat 'Tama' was incredibly popular. Many foreigners visited the rural station in Wakayama Prefecture to see the celebrity cat. (Unfortunately, she passed away last month at the age of 16) A variety of foreign travelers visit various destinations in Japan.

 The weak yen not only attracts travelers from overseas but also discourages Japanese citizens from traveling abroad. In fact, the number of Japanese who traveled abroad during the first half of this year decreased by 4.9%. Japanese travelers are shifting their destinations from oversea to domestic sites. It also stimulates the Japanese economy.

 At hotels in Tokyo, the occupancy rate was 86.3%, and in Osaka, the rate was 89.8%. Generally, when the rate of occupancy surpasses 85%, the quality of service tends to deteriorate due to a labor shortage.

 I hope that this trend triggers hotels to hire more staff. The employment situation will further improve.



Local Elections in Japan


 On April 12th, unified local elections took place all over Japan. All the 2,284local local prefectural representatives in 41 prefectures and 10 governorships were in contention. I feel both relieved and anxious about the results.

 I am mainly concerned about the low voter turnout. The average rate of voter turnout in 10 governorial elections was 47.14%, a decrease of 5.63% from 2011. This is the first time in history that the voting rate has fallen short of 50%. And, the average voting rate in local prefectural representative elections further deteriorated from 48.15% in 2011 to 45.05%. Political apathy is spreading throughout Japan.

This time the number of local prefectural representative seats was reduced by the national Diet from 2,330 to 2,284. Nonetheless, the Communist Party increased its seats from 77 to 111. I believe that Japan is polarizing.

 Except for the Communist Party, left-leaning parties now declined. The Democratic Party of Japan lost 68 seats (from 314 to 246), and the Social Democratic Party lost 5 seats going from 36 to 31.

 On the other hand, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) garnered a clear majority of seats for the first time in 24 years. Although its seats decreased from 1,233 to 1,153, the LDP rules the local assemblies with dominant majority in 24 prefectures. In addition, all the 10 governors were LDP candidates. The Abe Cabinet's mandate was confirmed by the majority of Japanese citizens.

 I believe that Abenomics alleviated the over-valued yen, which revitalized the Japanese economy. The Nikkei average has recovered from 7,054 yen in March 2009 to almost 20,000 yen (19,652.88 yen as of April 17th). Many Japanese companies improved their business performance and raised their employees' salaries, which will likely stimulate the economy more.

 However, even though employment situation improved, the number of welfare recipient has not decreased. Article 27 of the Japanese Constitution stipulates that all citizens have a right to work and have an obligation to work. Those who don't fulfill the duties of being a citizen don't deserve support from our taxes. As a whole, the Japanese are becoming conservative. The Abe Cabinet should reconsider the welfare system.

 Japan should become a fairer society in which efforts are reworded, and move away from foolish egalitarianism.


Violent Juvenile Crime


 Japan is the safest nation among the major countries in the world. In addition, the public peace in Japan is improving in terms of the overall number of crimes. Still, Japanese are not satisfied with the framework for dealing with crime, especially juvenile crime.

 Japan's crime hit the record of 2,853,739 cases in 2002. Since then, however, the number of crimes has decreased for 12 consecutive years. During 2014, the number of crimes was 1,212,240, a decrease of 101,900 compared to the previous year. However, the number of violent crimes such as murder and robbery increased by 116 to 1,054.

 On February 20th, three minors, one of whom was 18 years old and the rest were 17, assaulted a 13-year-old boy. The 18-year-old perpetrator killed the victim with a box cutter. The brutal crime by juveniles shocked Japanese citizens.

 Most citizens believe that the juvenile criminals are a band of delinquents. In fact, however, they are social outcast who cannot adjust to society.

 Under the Juvenile Law, juvenile criminals' names or photos are not released, and they are punished leniently. Newspapers and TVs donユt report that the juvenile murderer's mother is Filipina. She worked for a Filipino pub in Japan, and married one of her regular customers. The murderer's father lacks common sense, and the Filipina mother beat the boy. It's no wonder that their child dropped out and became a social outcast.

 The other members of the group have similar backgrounds. I understand the difficulty of their situation. However, no one has a right to commit a crime. Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees citizens life, freedom, and pursuit of happiness. The Japanese government should severely punish criminals, including juveniles.

 A survey conducted by the Cabinet Office in 2014 showed that 80.3 % of Japanese citizens supported the death penalty for intentional murder whereas only 9.7% insist on abolishing capital punishment.

 Regarding the brutal juvenile murder, a major magazine released the 18-year-old criminal's real name and his photo in defiance of the Juvenile Law. As long as I know, no citizen has criticized its report. Most Japanese are demanding strict punishment against violent juvenile crime.

 The Diet member should revise the Juvenile Law. Legally, a 12 years old or older can take responsibility for his/her actions. At least, those who have finished junior high school, namely a15 years old or older, should face the same punishment as adults.


Entrepreneurship in Japan


 On February 23rd, Japan's Nikkei share average hit an almost-15-year high. Clearly, Abenomics is revitalizing the Japanese economy. However, for sustainable growth, the Abe Cabinet should aggressively proceed with massive deregulation.

 The Japanese government is planning to raise Japan's rate of new entreneurship from 5% to 10% per annum, which is similar to the U.S. and the U.K. In order to promote incorporation, deregulation is desperately needed.

 In Japan, incorporation is tedious and expensive. For instance, registering a new corporation costs at least 150,000 yen (about 1,250 USD) in tax. And, prior to incorporation, its articles of incorporation must be notarized, requiring an expense of 50,000 yen. In addition, because of the meticulous procedure, entrepreneurs have to ask a Japanese paralegal specializing in real estate and corporate procedures. Hence, incorporation costs end up being over 300,000 yen (about 2,500 USD) in the end.

 In Singapore, incorporation can easily be done on the Internet. In addition, Singapore's corporate tax is only 17% while Japan's 34.62%. Less than half! It's no wonder that Singapore is attracting entrepreneurs from overseas.

 The Japanese government should abolish its incorporation tax, following the example of the U.S. And, 50,000 yen for notarization is outrageous because the procedure takes only 10 minutes or so. The notarization fee should be reduced to one-tenth of its current price. First and foremost, the incorporation procedure should be simplified so that anyone can incorporate by themselves.

 The Abe Cabinet is planning to reduce Japan's effective corporate tax rate to less than 30% as the first step, but it's far from enough. It should be lowered to around 25%, which is the global trend, as soon as possible.

 Prime Minister Abe maintains his position on deregulation. I do support the Abe Cabinet for Japan's future sustainable growth.


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