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CRS — “Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief (August 1, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

“Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Confronted with decades of economic stagnation, strict immigration controls, and a rapidly aging population, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has launched an ambitious plan—widely known as “Abenomics”—to restart Japan’s economy. The program has three main components: a large fiscal stimulus that was injected into the economy in early 2013; expansionary monetary policy that also began in 2013 and continues today; and a series of planned structural economic reforms, many of which have yet to be announced or implemented, that ostensibly will boost Japan’s productivity.

One of Abe’s planned structural reforms is a strategy to persuade more Japanese women to join the workforce, to remain in the workforce after they have children, and to advance higher on the career ladder. Japan’s gender gap is one of the largest among high-income countries, and some economists have argued for many years that narrowing this gap is a potential source of economic growth for Japan as well as a way to help offset the long-term demographic problems facing the country. Although some are optimistic that Abe’s government will be able to drive progress in the participation and advancement of women in Japan’s workforce, other observers believe that elements of Japanese culture, including office customs and traditional beliefs regarding gender roles, pose challenges for the success of the policy.

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The Future of Driving in Developing Countries

July 17, 2014 Comments off

The Future of Driving in Developing Countries
Source: RAND Corporation

The level of automobility, defined as travel in personal vehicles, is often seen as a function of income: The higher a country’s per capita income, the greater the amount of driving. However, levels of automobility vary quite substantially between countries even at similar levels of economic development. This suggests that countries follow different mobility paths. The research detailed in this report sought to answer three questions: What are the factors besides economic development that affect automobility? What is their influence on automobility? What will happen to automobility in developing countries if they progress along similar paths as developed countries? To answer these questions, the authors developed a methodology to identify these factors, model their impact on developed countries, and forecast automobility (as defined by per capita vehicle-kilometers traveled [VKT]) in four developing countries. This methodology draws on quantitative analysis of historical automobility development in four country case studies (the United States, Australia, Germany, and Japan) that represent very different levels of per capita automobility, in combination with data derived from an expert-based qualitative approach. The authors used the latter to assess how these experiences may affect the future of automobility in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. According to this analysis, automobility levels in the four BRIC countries will fall between those of the United States (which has the highest per capita VKT level of the four case studies) and Japan (which has the lowest). Brazil is forecasted to have the highest per capita VKT and India the lowest.

National Funding of Road Infrastructure

July 10, 2014 Comments off

National Funding of Road Infrastructure
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report examines the funding of roads and highways in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England and Wales, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden. It provides a description of the infrastructure in the jurisdiction, information on the ownership and responsibility of the roads, and taxes or other ways of collecting money to fund the nation’s infrastructure. If applicable, a discussion of reforms or new initiatives is examined.

Backgrounder: The Group of Seven (G7)

May 20, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: The Group of Seven (G7)
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Group of Seven (G7) is an informal bloc of industrialized democracies—France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and Canada—that meets annually to discuss issues of common interest like global economic governance, international security, and energy policy. Proponents say the forum’s small and relatively homogenous membership promotes collective decision-making, but critics note that it often lacks follow-through and that its membership excludes important emerging powers. Russia belonged to the forum from 1998 through 2014—then the Group of Eight (G8)—but the other members suspended their cooperation with Moscow after its annexation of Crimea in March of that year.

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2014

May 20, 2014 Comments off

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2014
Source: Deloitte

The second quarter edition of the Global Economic Outlook offers timely insights from Deloitte Research economists about the Eurozone, China, the United States, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. In addition, this issue’s special topic considers the revival in international trade and the resurgence of bilateralism.

Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate
Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies

The unsustainable federal budget outlook will inevitably push entitlement reform to the forefront of the national policy debate. As America’s leaders consider reform options, they will have much to learn from the experience of other developed countries, several of which have recently enacted far-reaching overhauls of their state pension systems that greatly reduce the long-term fiscal burden of their aging populations. Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate places America’s aging challenge in international perspective, examines the most promising reform initiatives in nine other developed countries, and draws practical lessons for U.S. policymakers.

AU — The G20: a quick guide

March 26, 2014 Comments off

The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.

Global Pensions Asset Study – 2014

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Global Pensions Asset Study – 2014
Source: Towers Watson

This is a study of the 13 largest pension markets in the world and accounts for more than 85% of global pension assets. The countries included are Australia, Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The study also analyses seven countries in greater depth by excluding the six smallest markets (Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong and South Africa).

The analysis includes:

  • Asset size, including growth statistics, comparison of asset size with GDP and liabilities
  • Asset allocation
  • Defined benefit and defined contribution share of pension assets
  • Public and private sector share of pension assets.

CRS — U.S. – Japan Economic Relations: Significance, Prospects, and Policy Options

February 25, 2014 Comments off

U.S. – Japan Economic Relations: Significance, Prospects, and Policy Options (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Japan and the United States are two major economic powers. Together they account for over 30% of world domestic product, for a significant portion of international trade in goods and services, and for a major portion of international investment. This economic clout makes the United States and Japan potentially powerful actors in the world economy. Economic conditions in the United States and Japan have a significant impact on the rest of the world. Furthermore, the U.S.-Japan bilateral economic relationship can influence economic conditions in other countries.

CRS — The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations and Issues for Congress (updated)

February 19, 2014 Comments off

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA that aims to liberalize trade in nearly all goods and services and include commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The broad outline of an agreement was announced on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial in November 2011, in Honolulu, HI. If concluded as envisioned, the TPP potentially could eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment among the parties and could serve as a template for a future trade pact among APEC members and potentially other countries. Congress has a direct interest in the negotiations, both through influencing U.S. negotiating positions with the executive branch, and by passing legislation to implement any resulting agreement.

OECD Review of Fisheries: Country Statistics 2013

January 13, 2014 Comments off

OECD Review of Fisheries: Country Statistics 2013
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Fisheries (capture fisheries and aquaculture) supply the world each year with millions of tonnes of fish (including, notably, fish, molluscs and crustaceans). Fisheries as well as ancillary activities also provide livelihoods and income. The fishery sector contributes to development and growth in many countries, playing an important role for food security, poverty reduction, employment and trade.

This publication contains statistics on fisheries from 2005 to 2012. Data provided concern fishing fleet capacity, employment in fisheries, fish landings, aquaculture production, recreational fisheries, government financial transfers, and imports and exports of fish.

OECD countries covered

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States

Non-member economies covered

Argentina, Chinese Taipei, Thailand

The Curious Case of the Yen as a Safe Haven Currency: A Forensic Analysis

November 8, 2013 Comments off

The Curious Case of the Yen as a Safe Haven Currency: A Forensic Analysis
Source: International Monetary Fund

During risk-off episodes, the yen is a safe haven currency and on average appreciates against the U.S. dollar. We investigate the proximate causes of yen risk-off appreciations. We find that neither capital inflows nor expectations of the future monetary policy stance can explain the yen’s safe haven behavior. In contrast, we find evidence that changes in market participants’ risk perceptions trigger derivatives trading, which in turn lead to changes in the spot exchange rate without capital flows. Specifically, we find that risk-off episodes coincide with forward hedging and reduced net short positions or a buildup of net long positions in yen. These empirical findings suggest that offshore and complex financial transactions should be part of spillover analyses and that the effectiveness of capital flow management measures or monetary policy coordination to address excessive exchange rate volatility might be limited in certain cases.

Country Analysis Brief: Japan

October 31, 2013 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Japan
Source: Energy Information Administration

Japan has limited domestic energy resources. It meets less than 15% of its own total primary energy use from domestic sources. It is the third largest oil consumer and importer in the world behind the United States and China. Furthermore, it ranks as the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and second largest importer of coal behind China.

In light of the country’s lack of sufficient domestic hydrocarbon resources, Japanese energy companies have actively pursued participation in upstream oil and natural gas projects overseas and provide engineering, construction, financial, and project management services for energy projects around the world. Japan is one of the major exporters of energy-sector capital equipment, and has a strong energy research and development (R&D) program supported by the government. This program pursues energy efficiency measures domestically in order to increase the country’s energy security and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

In March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a large tsunami. The damage to Japan’s resulted in an immediate shutdown of about 10 GW of nuclear electric generating capacity. Between the 2011 Fukushima disaster and May 2012, Japan lost all of its nuclear capacity as a result of scheduled maintenance and lack of government approvals to return to operation. Two nuclear reactors were re-commissioned in July 2012 and represented the only source of nuclear power in the country for more than one year. However, these two reactors were removed from service again in September 2013, eliminating the country’s nuclear capacity for a second time in more than 40 years.

Nuclear generation in Japan represented about 26% of the power generation prior to the 2011 earthquake and was one of the country’s least expensive forms of power supply. Japan replaced the significant loss of nuclear power with generation from imported natural gas, low-sulfur crude oil, fuel oil, and coal that caused a higher price of electricity for its government, utilities, and consumers. Fuel import cost increases have resulted in Japan’s top 10 utilities losing over $30 billion in the past two years. Japan spent $250 billion on total fuel imports in 2012, a third of the country’s total import charge. Despite strength in export markets, the yen’s depreciation and soaring natural gas and oil import costs from a greater reliance on fossil fuels continued to deepen Japan’s recent trade deficit throughout 2013.

Disasters, Rebuilding and Leadership – Tough Lessons from Japan and the U.S.

October 9, 2013 Comments off

Disasters, Rebuilding and Leadership – Tough Lessons from Japan and the U.S.
Source: Knowledge@Wharton (U Penn)

On March 11, 2011, deep below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, enormous seismic forces reached a tipping point. At 2:46 p.m., one of the earth’s tectonic plates suddenly shifted, thrusting violently underneath another. The North American plate was pushed upward with such force that the movement generated a massive tsunami. It took the wall of moving water 51 minutes to reach the coast of Japan, some 45 miles away.

In some places, the tsunami towered more than 125 feet above the ground when it hit. Thankfully, the height of the wave was far less where it came ashore near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — “only” 50 feet high. Still, the nuclear disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami has been rated by the International Atomic Energy Agency as equal in severity to the 1986 accident at Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster on record.

The complex catastrophe — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown — killed close to 20,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands more and contaminated a large swathe of beautiful countryside for decades or longer. More than two years later, Japan is still struggling to recover and prevent even more devastation.

On May 24, 2013, the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) sponsored a panel at the Wharton Global Forum in Tokyo to consider the leadership lessons generated by the Fukushima disaster, and to look at its impact on Japan’s energy policy and the resettlement of afflicted areas.

While the scale of the natural disaster in Japan was beyond the experience of anyone now alive, it was far from unprecedented and should have been anticipated, according to several post-Fukushima reports. Yet those in leadership positions failed to adequately prepare for the catastrophic events of March 2011. Unwilling to face up to the rare but predictable worst-case scenario, government and industry leaders were quickly overwhelmed by events. The judgments they made and the actions they took — or failed to take — often compounded problems. A close look at these mistakes offers valuable lessons for leaders facing disasters in the future.

How Major League Baseball Clubs Have Commercialized Their Investment in Japanese Top Stars

October 9, 2013 Comments off

How Major League Baseball Clubs Have Commercialized Their Investment in Japanese Top Stars
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

When a Major League Baseball club signs a Japanese star player, it obviously tries to commercialize its investment in the player. The initial focus is on home attendance (ticket sales) and television audiences, plus merchandise sales. These elements are similar to those considered for any high-performing players. However, for Japanese stars, there is also the potential to attract significant fandom from the local Japanese community. This represents an opportunity for truly incremental local revenue for the team. In addition, teams try to attract revenue from Japan-such as from corporate sponsors, advertising signage at the home field, and visiting Japanese fans traveling to the U.S. to see these stars perform. In addition to treating team efforts at growing local Japanese community support, this paper examines seven factors for success in attracting revenues from Japanese companies and fans: pitcher or position player, pl ayer’s popularity, non-stop flights from Japan, distance from Japan, non-sport tourist attractions in a city, size of Japanese community in the city and player’s and team’s performance. The most important factor, however, is the player’s talent and popularity in terms of performance in both Japan and the U.S. and his media exposure in Japan including endorsement contracts. In addition, if a MLB club signs a Japanese position star player and is based in a city which is endowed with a variety of non-baseball tourist attractions, this would have a further advantage for the team. The field-based research reported here is derived largely from analysis of team experiences with five principal Japanese baseball stars-Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Kosuke Fukudome.

The Path to Higher Growth: Does Revamping Japan’s Dual Labor Market Matter?

October 2, 2013 Comments off

The Path to Higher Growth: Does Revamping Japan’s Dual Labor Market Matter?
Source: International Monetary Fund

This paper argues that Japan’s excessive labor market duality can reduce Total Factor Productivity (TFP) due to a negative impact on non-regular workers’ effort and on firms’ incentives to train them. On the basis of cross-country empirical evidence, the paper proposes some reform options. In particular, our analysis suggests that reducing the difference in employment protection between regular and non-regular workers would substantially reduce labor market duality in Japan. One reform consistent with these findings is the introduction of a Single Open Ended Contract for all newly hired workers. This reform could be complemented by a shift towards a model that combines labor market flexibility and security (“flexicurity”) and by policies aimed at encouraging wage growth.

Postmarket Surveillance of Medical Devices: A Comparison of Strategies in the US, EU, Japan, and China

September 30, 2013 Comments off

Postmarket Surveillance of Medical Devices: A Comparison of Strategies in the US, EU, Japan, and China
Source: PLoS Medicine

Medical devices play an increasingly vital role in health care delivery around the world. These technologies are defined in distinction to drugs as an “instrument, apparatus…machine…implant…or other similar or related article…which is…intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease…and which does not achieve its primary intended purposes through chemical action” [1]. In recognition of the importance of medical devices, the World Health Organization established a Medical Device Unit to focus research and policy on prioritizing access to medical devices in low-resource settings, dessemination of innovations, and training of biomedical personnel to support the use of devices worldwide [2]. While medical devices offer opportunities for improved diagnosis and management of disease, they also can carry substantial risks. Governmental regulatory bodies considering new medical device approval balance the goals of expanding therapeutic options with safeguarding public health. Wherever the standard for market authorization is set, questions about a device’s safety and effectiveness will remain after introduction into clinical practice. However, medical devices raise several unique challenges, including operator variability and procedural learning curves, permanent implantation, and the technological complexity of some devices.

After a new medical device is brought to market, the process of postmarket surveillance (PS) provides an ongoing assessment of safety and effectiveness. High-profile international public health crises involving widely used implantable cardioverter-defibrillator leads [3],[4], joint prostheses [5], and breast implants [6] raise questions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to device PS worldwide. Though only limited quantitative measures of PS guide policy decisions [7], we evaluated the range of device PS strategies in four important medical device markets—the US, EU, Japan, and China. The US and EU represent large markets that are entertaining substantial reforms to PS practice. Japan and China are, respectively, mature and emerging international markets that have systems that could inform ongoing policy debates in the US and EU and be influenced by their practices in turn. Our goal was to identify “best practices” from among these countries that could support the public health goals of all device regulatory systems.

CRS — Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments

September 23, 2013 Comments off

Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since 2000, the U.S. military has been building up forward-deployed forces on the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam to increase U.S. operational presence, deterrence, and power projection for potential responses to crises and disasters, counterterrorism, and contingencies in support of South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, or elsewhere in Asia. Since 2006, joint exercises based at Guam called “Valiant Shield” have boosted U.S. military readiness in the Pacific. The defense buildup on Guam has been moderate. China has concerns about Guam’s buildup, suspecting it to be directed against China. There has been concern that China and North Korea could target Guam with missiles. The People ’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has increased activities in waters around Guam. Still, Guam’s role increased in engaging with the PLA. In 2006, the United States and Japan agreed on a Realignment Roadmap to strengthen their alliance, including a buildup on Guam to cost $10.3 billion, with Japan contributing 60%. Goals were to start the related construction on Guam by 2010 and to complete relocation of about 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. In Tokyo on February 17, 2009, the Secretary of State signed the bilateral “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning the Implementation of the Relocation of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Personnel and Their Dependents From Okinawa to Guam” that reaffirmed the “Roadmap” of May 1, 2006.

However, completion of the marines’ relocation by 2014 would be unlikely, and the original realignment actually would have involved more than moving 8,000 marines to Guam. Japan’s dispute over the location on Okinawa of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) to replace the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma raised implications for the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam. Nonetheless, despite the dis pute over the FRF, Japan has budgeted for its contributions to the marines’ relocation to Guam.

By 2011, some Members urged attention to concerns that included Japan’s impasse, expanded costs, and the delay in the realignment even as the U.S. military presence and readiness remain critical. On May 11, 2011, Senators Carl Levin, John McCain, and Jim Webb called for a review of plans to restructure military forces in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. President Obama issued in January 2012 the defense guidance for the strategy of “rebalancing” diplomatic, defense, and economic priorities more to the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, on February 8, the United States and Japan agreed to “adjust” the Roadmap and separate the move of marines from the plan for the FRF, in order to make progress separately. A U.S.-Japan Joint Statement of April 2012 specified that out of about 9,000 marines to be relocated from Okinawa, about 5,000 marines would move to Guam. Out of the new estimated cost of $ 8.6 billion, Japan would contribute $3.1 billion. In March 2013, the Commander of the Pacific Command (PACOM) testified to Congress that he estimated the completion of movement of marines to Guam by 2020.

Facing North Korea’s announced missile threats against Guam in March 2013, the Defense Department announced on April 3 that it would de ploy to Guam within weeks a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system as a precautionary measure to improve defenses against North Korea’s missile threat.

Legislation includes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2014, H.R. 1960 and S. 1197. For further discussion, see the section on legislation. Updated as warranted, this CRS Report discusses major developments and policy issues related to the defense buildup.

Is Labor Market Mismatch a Big Deal in Japan?

September 19, 2013 Comments off

Is Labor Market Mismatch a Big Deal in Japan?
Source: International Monetary Fund

Despite its low unemployment rate, the recent shift in the Japanese Beveridge curve indicates increased labor mismatch. This paper quantifies the age, employment-type (full or part-time), and occupational mismatch in the Japanese labor market following Sahin and others (2013). Between April 2000 and April 2013, the age mismatch has steadily declined while the occupational and employmenttype mismatch has shown a countercyclical pattern, showing a sharp increase during the global financial crisis. Occupational mismatch accounted for approximtely 20-40 percent of the recent rise in the unemployment rate in Japan. The magnitude was comparable to that of the U.K. and the U.S.

Just Published: Law Library of Congress Report on Guest Worker Programs

September 17, 2013 Comments off

Just Published: Law Library of Congress Report on Guest Worker Programs
Source: Law Library of Congress

A report titled Guest Worker Programs was recently added to the list of reports posted on the Law Library of Congress website under “Current Legal Topics” where you can also find a range of other comparative law reports on various topics.

The Guest Worker Programs report is based on a study conducted by staff of the Global Legal Research Center (GLRC). The report describes programs for the admission and employment of guest workers in fourteen selected countries:

  • Australia,
  • Brazil,
  • Canada,
  • China,
  • Germany,
  • Israel,
  • Japan,
  • Mexico,
  • Norway,
  • the Russian Federation,
  • South Korea,
  • Spain,
  • the United Arab Emirates, and
  • the United Kingdom.

It also provides information on the European Union’s Proposal for a Directive on Seasonal Employment, the Association Agreement between the European Union and Turkey regarding migrants of Turkish origin, and the Multilateral Framework of the International Labour Organization on the admission of guest workers. The complete report is also available in PDF.

The report includes a comparative analysis and individual chapters on each country, the EU, and relevant international arrangements. It provides a general overview of a variety of immigration systems, and addresses issues such as eligibility criteria for the admission of guest workers and their families, guest workers’ recruitment and sponsorship, and visa requirements. The report further discusses the tying of temporary workers to their employers in some countries; the duration and the conditions that apply to switching employers; the terms, including the renewability, of guest workers’ visas; and the availability of a path to permanent status.

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