Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 13 & 14, 2022
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 12-4-2022. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to captivate the world, including Japan. Due to the many news updates, we have again compiled a summary of recent developments in Japan regarding this topic:
- Japan’s additional sanctions on Russia effectively ban new investments. (Link to full article)
- Firms seek new coal suppliers as Japan phases out Russian imports. (Link to full article)
- Yokohama establishes donation boxes for Ukrainian evacuees. (Link to full article)
- NGO provides financial support to Ukrainian evacuees in Japan. (Link to full article)
- People in Hiroshima protest invasion of Ukraine. (Link to full article)
- Ukrainian evacuees arrive in Japan on direct flight from Poland. (Link to full article)
- Japanese police produce Ukrainian-language information leaflets for evacuees. (Link to full article)
- Ukrainian evacuees enroll in Japanese university. (Link to full article)
- Japanese milling firms to raise wheat-flour prices. (Link to full article)
The Japanese government has raised the daily cap on the number of arrivals from abroad to 10,000. The figure includes Japanese and foreign nationals.
The goal is to revive social and economic activities despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The cap was raised on Sunday 10 April for the third time since 1 March. On that day, new entries of foreign visitors other than tourists resumed and the number of entries was raised from 3,500 to 5,000 a day including Japanese nationals. The cap was raised further to 7,000 on 14 March.
Officials say it is now possible to accept 10,000 a day because of stepped-up measures against the coronavirus, such as quarantine controls.
The government plans to further raise the limit step by step to accept more foreign students, technical trainees, and business people. It hopes to reopen the country also for foreign tourists at some point.
The timing and scale of the increase remain uncertain as new daily cases of the coronavirus are currently rising again in Japan.
The Japanese government’s figures released on Monday 11 April show that more than 45% of residents have received their third shots against the coronavirus.
Vaccination rates are lower for younger people. Among those aged 70 or older, more than 80% have received their booster shots. Only about 20% of those in their 20s or 30s have taken their third injection. Looking at nationwide new infections, people in their 20s accounted for 18% of new cases in the week through 5 April.
The health ministry is trying to promote inoculations among young people. The ministry pays the costs for university vaccination programs at venues set up by local authorities.
The ministry says a new variant of the coronavirus called XE was detected during quarantine tests for the first time in Japan. The new type contains a mix of Omicron strains.
British health authority data shows the new variant tends to spread faster than the strain that is currently becoming the main type in Japan.
“It has not become the dominant strain in Britain, where it was detected earlier, and it is unlikely that it will spread rapidly in Japan,” said Motomura Kazushi, director of the public health department at the Osaka Institute of Public Health.
“There is no need to be overly afraid at the moment,” Motomura said. “We must continue implementing basic measures to prevent infections, such as promoting additional vaccinations.”
Across Japan, officials confirmed 33,205 new coronavirus infections on Monday.
Japan has expanded employer obligations to prevent power harassment at the workplace to cover smaller firms, in addition to major companies under the scope up to now.
Starting on 1 April, small and mid-sized companies are obliged by law to set up consultation desks and take other measures to prevent power harassment. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry defines power harassment as words and acts by offenders, taking advantage of their position of authority over victims beyond the scope required and appropriate for work.
Specifically, the ministry indicates six types, including physical abuse such as beating and kicking, as well as mental abuse by longtime, repeated reprimand.
The ministry says it granted recognition of work-related accidents, including mental depression, to 608 people in fiscal 2020. Among them, the largest number, 16% cited power harassment from those in senior positions as a reason for their sufferings. Some were driven to suicide.
Smaller firms are now mandated by law to make clear what constitutes power harassment in the workplace and make it known to all members. Employers also need to set up consultation desks, and deal properly with workers who perpetrated the harassment, after confirming the facts.
Employers are also prohibited from treating employees disadvantageously when they seek help about harassment, such as dismissing them.
Labor bureaus will give guidance to firms that fail to take necessary measures. They can disclose the names of firms that neglect to improve their working environment after such instructions.
An official of the ministry says it will try to let the relevant law be better known to businesses. The official also says the ministry will help firms take steps by providing materials for in-house training sessions and through other means.
Hitachi will introduce a new system that allows employees to change and organize their schedules so that they can choose to work only four days a week, hoping to attract more staff by offering a more flexible way of working.
The conglomerate joins other big Japanese and global companies to move in this direction, by seeking to improve productivity through offering employees the incentive of shorter working weeks. Panasonic Holdings and NEC are also considering four-day workweeks.
Hitachi plans to implement this new way of working in the current financial year that started this month for about 15,000 employees.
Under the new system, an employee can choose to work 9-10 hours between Monday and Thursday for example, instead of the current required 7 hours and 45 minutes, in return for a day off on Friday. Similarly, employees can also choose to work longer hours in the first half of the month and take some time off at the end of the month.
Currently, Hitachi employees have to work at least 3.75 hours each working day, but this limit will be removed under the new system. “If we have more flexibility regarding where and when we work, we can improve productivity,” Nakahata Hidenobu, Hitachi senior vice president and executive officer, said.
Many companies have four-day workweeks for employees who cannot commit to working long hours due to reasons such as having to care for relatives. In such cases, they are paid less than others who work the full required hours.
However, with businesses becoming more service-oriented and knowledge-intensive, longer working hours do not equate to better results, prompting companies to develop rotas that allow employees to work more flexibly and to evaluate their performance by outcomes.
A 2021 research by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed that 8.5% of the companies in the country had systems in place that allow employees to work four or fewer days per week. The government had included the promotion of four-day workweeks in its core policy that was approved by the Cabinet in June last year.
Apart from Hitachi, NEC is also planning to introduce a four-day workweek by the end of the current fiscal year for 20,000 of its employees at first. It plans to extend the scheme to group companies eventually. Panasonic Holdings will also pilot a four-day workweek at its holdings company and some of its subsidiaries in this fiscal year.
In Europe and other parts of the world, there has also been a move toward four-day workweeks, but with shorter hours and no loss in pay. Unilever and Spanish telecom company Telefonica have already begun offering staff four-day weeks. Belgium in February approved a four-day workweek, which is expected to be legislated later this year.
Still, Japanese companies face some challenges. Employees may end up working longer hours per day and it remains to be seen if employers can divert and reallocate work efficiently.
In addition, Japan’s Labor Standards Law is based on factory work, meaning wages are determined by the number of hours worked. However, it is becoming clear that as more people work from home, such rules may have to be updated to reflect diverse working styles.
Honda Motor announced on Tuesday 12 April that it will invest 5 trillion yen (€37 billion) in the development of electric vehicles over the next decade and plans to release 30 EV models by 2030.
Honda said it will spend 8 trillion yen in total on research and development over that period. The Japanese automaker, which recently announced a tie-up on affordable EVs with GM, plans to shift away from conventional cars and sell only electric or fuel cell vehicles by 2040.
Honda President Mibe Toshihiro emphasized, “We will develop high-value products on a global scale” at a briefing on the electrification of the company’s four-wheeled vehicles held at Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo.
At his inaugural news conference as president in April 2021, Mibe declared a withdrawal from gasoline-powered vehicles by 2040, and at this one he presented concrete measures to achieve that goal.
During the news conference, the company also outlined its global battery strategy by region. For the time being, the automaker intends to secure stable supplies of liquid lithium-ion batteries in North America, China and Japan by strengthening its partnerships. For example, in the U.S., Honda will procure Altium batteries from GM. It is also considering partnering with another company to produce still more batteries.
Beginning late this decade, Honda will accelerate the development of an all-solid-state battery, believing such a next-generation power pack could improve the performance of its EVs. Honda said it has been planning to invest about 43 billion yen to launch a demonstration line in Tochigi Prefecture in the spring of 2024.
By 2030, the company plans to roll out 30 EV models globally, with annual EV production to exceed 2 million cars. In North America, two medium and large EVs being jointly developed with GM will be launched in 2024. In China, which accounts for about 40% of Honda’s annual global sales, 10 models will be introduced by 2027. Also, some light vehicles priced at 1 million yen will be launched in the first half of 2024 in Japan.
“We now stand at the dawn of the EVs era. The strategy differs from region to region, though we are considering a long-term plan to cover the entire lineup with three platforms: small, medium and large,” Mibe said.
Regarding the point of accelerating investment in the software area, Mibe said, “Creating the value of the software will account for a significant proportion of the car business.” Referring to software updates over the internet, he added, “We would like to strongly promote the recurring business [that will make] the car more advanced than when it was purchased.”
Update on the Netherlands
Giro555’s national fundraising campaign for Ukraine has raised up to €160.8 million so far. At the end of the national day of action on 7 March, the counter stood at more than 106 million euros.
On Sunday 10 April it was reported that the Dutch nationwide campaign for Ukraine is the second most successful Giro555 campaign ever.
Exactly a month ago, Giro555 reported that the counter stood at 137.4 million euros. So money is still coming in, although not as much as in the early days of the promotion. On Monday 7 March, Giro555 organized a national day of action to raise money for the victims of the war in Ukraine.
That day ended with an interim score of more than 106 million euros. “We are extremely touched by the enormous willingness to give in the Netherlands. Everyone wants to help, whether it be school classes, multinationals or sports associations. That is very special to see,” says action chairman Kees Zevenbergen of Giro555.
The Giro555 action is not yet as successful as the action that once yielded the most: the collection for victims of the tsunami in Asia in 2004 yielded no less than 208.3 million euros.
The donations for Ukraine will be used immediately. Since the start of the Russian invasion of the country, the 11 aid organizations behind Giro555 have been working on aid to the affected population, Giro555 reports. “We are busy providing life-saving aid that is possible thanks to the contributions of the Dutch donors.”
On Monday 11 April, the Dutch government offered shelter to about 28,000 Ukrainian refugees. On Thursday, there were still 24,700 refugees.
It concerns people who have fled the Russian violence or who may have already resided in the Netherlands and who cannot return to their home country because of the war.
A total of 41,743 beds have now been made available in the 25 security regions. That is considerably more than there were on Thursday: an increase of 7,818. The regions agreed with the cabinet last month that they would create 50,000 reception places as soon as possible.
The Ukrainians who are received by private host families or who have shelter in some other way are not included in these figures.
Furthermore, 31,340 Ukrainians have registered with the municipalities so far. That is 3,406 more than last Thursday. Registration in the municipal basic register is important, because it allows the government to arrange facilities for those involved, such as healthcare and education. These figures do include people who are also received in a different way.
At the beginning of March, the cabinet decided to treat the reception of large numbers of refugees from Ukraine as a crisis. This means, among other things, that regular consultations are held under the leadership of Minister Dilan Yesilgöz (Justice and Security). Such a crisis structure was previously used around the MH17 disaster and the corona crisis.
In order to ensure that private reception takes place in a safe manner, aid organizations decided to help the Red Cross, the Netherlands Council for Refugees and the Salvation Army in recruiting, screening and supervising the host families and living quarters, for which the government is reserving money.
If you are infected with corona according to a self-test, you will soon no longer have to go to the GGD to have an official test done there. This is apparent from the new long-term strategy for corona that the cabinet has drawn up.
At the moment the rule is that you must have your positive self-test confirmed at the GGD, but from 11 April, self-testing will become the norm. There will be a ‘self-care advice’ to make it clear what to do after a positive corona test, or if you test negative but still have complaints.
A corona infection cannot be registered without a GGD test. In order to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, sewage water is checked, among other things.
New rounds of vaccinations and (new) medicines for people infected with corona are also being taken into account. As far as the cabinet is concerned, people must continue to adhere to the basic advice.
According to the government’s strategy, prevention will be a matter for citizens, government and other sectors, but the concrete implementation is still largely lacking in the strategy that was sent to the House of Representatives on Friday. For example, plans are still being worked on to be able to scale up care when necessary.
The cabinet is taking four scenarios into account. From a mild one in which corona resembles a cold to a ‘worst case scenario’ with a lot of illness and death, and pressure on hospitals. The government has asked sectors to make plans for all four scenarios.
More clarity should be given in June about the long-term plans. Then the cabinet wants to send a new letter to the House of Representatives about the strategy.
There have been twice as many illness reports in recent weeks than in the same period in 2021 and 2020, according to figures from the Arbo Unie labor organization. This could be due to the flu epidemic, which we are in the middle of, according to the RIVM.
The number of reports is about a quarter more than in 2018 and 2019, before the corona pandemic. “We see that especially short-term absenteeism, less than a week, and medium-term absenteeism, one to six weeks, is high,” says a spokesperson for Arbo Unie, one of the largest occupational health and safety services in the Netherlands.
GPs are also noticing that the flu epidemic is in full swing. In the last week of March, a flu virus was found in 59% of patients with an acute respiratory infection, according to figures from research institute Nivel.
The flu epidemic often starts in December or January, now it started in March. According to Nivel, this is probably due to the corona measures, which also prevented the spread of the flu virus. Now that the measures have been released and people have more contact with each other, the risk of respiratory infections such as flu is also increasing.
Figures from the RIVM, hospitals and laboratories also substantiate the flu wave. “The number of people with flu (influenza) has increased considerably over the past four weeks,” the RIVM said. “These are comparable numbers with before the corona pandemic, but we do not expect any catching up.”
According to the RIVM, you get real flu about once every ten years. “People often confuse the flu with a cold virus. Perhaps many people have forgotten how sick you can get from the flu.”
On average, a flu epidemic lasts about nine weeks or longer. Arbo Unie sees that the number of reports with flu-like symptoms is decreasing. “Although that is less strong than in previous years,” a spokesperson said. The number of people with influenza may be falling faster now that the weather is getting nicer, because just like with corona, viruses spread less easily with better weather.
The government wants to prevent tenants in the free sector from having to pay a significantly higher price for their home due to rising inflation. Although the maximum rent increase is limited to the statutory inflation plus 1% for three years, rents can still rise due to the high inflation.
Minister Hugo de Jonge (Housing and Spatial Planning) therefore wants to be able to set a lower maximum for homes that fall into this sector. This concerns houses with a minimum monthly rent of 763.47 euros. A proposal to settle this went into consultation on Monday for stakeholders to respond to. In this way, the rent increase should be more in line with that of the social rented sector.
According to De Jonge, inflation has risen sharply since November and it is certainly possible that inflation will remain high for a longer period of time. Another factor is the fact that households are already faced with significantly higher expenditure, partly because the prices for gas, electricity and fuel have skyrocketed recently. If a significantly higher rent is added to this, this may push households into payment difficulties.
The minister is considering limiting the permitted increase to a maximum of inflation, so that the ‘plus 1%’ will lapse. He is also looking at options for basing the rent increase on something else.
The Woonbond, which stands up for the interests of tenants, also wants inflation to be decoupled from rent increases. Otherwise, according to the union, increases could amount to 7 to 8%, which could mean an increase of up to 100 euros per month for tenants in the free sector.
If you leave your charged electric car at a charging station, you risk a fine of 95 euros. When the car battery is charged, the driver must immediately remove the vehicle and not leave it at the charging station. The Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal determined this on Monday 11 April.
An owner of an electric car had objected to a fine of 95 euros that he received in 2020 when he left his vehicle charged at a charging station in Noordwijk for two hours.
A municipal inspector issued the fine when he saw that the car had been parked there for two hours, while the light on the charging station indicated that the battery was full. According to the municipality of Noordwijk, long-term use of a parking space with a charging station is not allowed.
The driver challenged his fine, but the court did not agree. The judge ruled that the motorist should have moved his vehicle when the battery was full. According to the court, as a rule, the charging station itself indicates the expected charging time and, moreover, the driver could also have made a calculation himself how long the charging would take.
The largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands Albert Heijn will start with fast home delivery of groceries, collaborating with meal delivery companies Thuisbezorgd.nl and Deliveroo.
The intention is that the bicycle couriers deliver the groceries ‘within about thirty minutes’, says Albert Heijn top woman Marit van Egmond in a press release. This makes the supermarket chain slightly slower than competitors, who usually promise a delivery time of ten or fifteen minutes.
Flash delivery of groceries has become a well-known phenomenon in Dutch cities in about a year. About 925,000 Dutch people have used it, concluded market researcher Kantar last month.
Foreign companies dominate this market. For example, in Dutch cities, the delivery drivers of Gorillas and Flink, both German, and the Turkish Getir are best represented.
The rise of the fast deliverers is accompanied by controversy. For example, bicycle couriers complain about defective equipment that they have to use. Residents of the warehouses from which the deliverers pick up the groceries, so-called dark stores, sometimes experience the nuisance of waiting couriers, bicycles lying around or trucks blocking the road. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, among others, have therefore restricted the arrival of new dark stores.
Albert Heijn’s fast delivery service is not affected by this ban. The bicycle couriers collect the groceries in supermarket branches.
Supermarket chains work more often with the flash delivery. For example, Jumbo has been supplying the range of the Gorillas delivery service since the beginning of this year. Customers can also opt for fast delivery by Gorillas couriers via the Jumbo app. Furthermore, the Van Eerd family, the owners of Jumbo, has become a shareholder in the German company. According to an insider, the people from Brabant have paid a double-digit million for this.
The advantage of such a collaboration is for the supermarkets that they do not have to build up their own network of bicycle couriers to bring online ordered groceries home. That is loss-making in Europe, just like slower forms of e-commerce in the supermarket sector. Albert Heijn has experimented in the past with its own fast delivery service, but pulled the plug again.
Delivering groceries is interesting for Thuisbezorgd.nl and Deliveroo because they can use their fleet of bicycle couriers more efficiently. The peak times for grocery deliveries are different from those for meals.
Update on Dujat & Members
We are pleased to welcome Kubota Holdings Europe B.V. and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as new members of Dujat. We look forward to welcoming you to our events!
We are pleased to invite you to attend the Dujat Meets & Drinks event at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on 10 May. It is the first time in a long while for Dujat to finally visit their museum again, with this time on display: Exhibition Van Gogh and the Olive Groves.
We are already getting close to the maximum number of registrations, so for those who are interested, we recommend to register as soon as possible on our event site. We look forward to meeting you at this event!
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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