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CRS — The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and Futenma Base Controversy (August 14, 2014)

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and Futenma Base Controversy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Although the U.S.-Japan alliance is often labeled as “the cornerstone” of security in the Asia Pacific region, local concerns about the U.S. military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa have challenged the management of the alliance for decades. The Japanese archipelago serves as the most significant forward-operating platform for the U.S. military in the region; approximately 53,000 military personnel (39,000 onshore and 14,000 afloat in nearby waters), 43,000 dependents, and 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees live in Japan. With the United States pledging to rebalance its defense posture towards Asia, the uncertainty surrounding the medium and long-term presence of American forces on Okinawa remains a critical concern for national security decision-makers.

Due to the legacy of the U.S. occupation and the island’s key strategic location, Okinawa hosts a disproportionate share of the continuing U.S. military presence. About 25% of all facilities used by U.S. Forces Japan and about half of the U.S. military personnel are located in the prefecture, which comprises less than 1% of Japan’s total land area. Many Okinawans oppose the U.S. military presence, although some observers assert that Tokyo has failed to communicate effectively to Okinawans the benefits of the alliance. However, Okinawa has received billions of dollars in subsidies from the central government in recognition of its burden of hosting U.S. troops.

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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.

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.

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