Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 37 & 38, 2023

This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 26-9-2023. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan

The number of foreign visitors to Japan topped two million for the third straight month in August.

The Japan National Tourism Organization estimates that more than 2.1 million travelers arrived last month. Visitor numbers recovered to about 85% of the figure for August 2019. It is the first time a monthly tally has exceeded 80% of the comparable pre-pandemic level.

The Japan Department Stores Association says tourists spent 31.7 billion yen, or about 210 million dollars, on duty-free goods in August.

That’s 3.4 times more than in the same month last year, and 24% up from August 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Officials with the association say there’s still room for the sales to grow. China only lifted its ban on group tours mid-way through the month. Before the pandemic, 30% of inbound holidaymakers were Chinese.

The Japanese government is looking to expand its electronic visa services system to streamline application procedures for foreign visitors amid a resurgence of tourism after the end of coronavirus-related border control measures, according to government officials.

The Foreign Ministry began the online service in March in 11 countries and regions, with China added to the system in June. Among its conveniences, it enables eligible applicants to obtain short-term stay visas without going to their local Japanese embassy or consulate.

In the first eight months of this year, some 15.19 million foreign tourists entered Japan, data from the Japan National Tourism Organization shows. The figure represents about 69% of the total number recorded in the same period of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

An official from the ministry’s Foreign Nationals’ Affairs Division said that “the rate of online applicants is increasing. The system allows for smooth issuance of documents, and it is very likely to be contributing to the recovery in inbound tourism.”

The ministry is currently assessing whether to make the scheme available in more countries.

Computerization of the visa system has sped up processing times and reduced staff workload, according to another government official.

“Inbound tourist numbers are on an upward trend, meaning we could at some point become unable to respond with the current workforce. I hope we can progress further with bringing the system online,” the official said.

Under the scheme, applicants from all eligible countries and regions except China can pay for visa fees using credit cards.

Users are informed of the results of their screening by email. By accessing the system’s website, successful applicants can present their visa issuance notice from their smartphones when boarding a flight to Japan or entering the country.

The 12 countries and regions are Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

More than 10% of Japanese people have crossed 80 years or older for the first time, new official data showed, as the nation faces a rapidly graying population.

Government data released on Sunday, ahead of Monday’s Respect for Aged Day national holiday, also showed that the share of Japan’s population at 65 or older expanded to a record 29.1% from 29.0% a year ago.

The level compared with second-ranked Italy’s 24.5% and third-ranked Finland’s 23.6%, according to the internal affairs ministry. “Japan has the highest percentage of elderly population in the world,” the ministry said in a press release.

For decades, Japan has seen its population shrink and grow older as young people delay marriage and children largely due to unstable jobs and economic difficulties. As a result, Japan has seen ballooning costs for elderly care with not enough young people to fill jobs and pay for various social and welfare programs.

The ministry said that with the baby boomer population turning 75 or older, Japan’s 124.4 million people are continuing to grow older. Around 12.59 million people are 80 or older while 20 million are 75 or older, it said.

As a result, Japan is relying on an elderly labor force. More than nine million elderly are working, accounting for 13.6% of the workforce, or one in seven workers in Japan.

A quarter of all elderly in Japan have jobs, less than South Korea’s 36.2% , but far ahead of other developed countries such as the United States at 18.6%, and France at 3.9%. More than a third of people between 70 to 74 have jobs in Japan, the data showed.

By 2040, Japan’s elderly population is projected to account for 34.8% of the population.

Major Japanese companies like Fujitsu are moving their headquarters out of central Tokyo, aiming to downsize offices and reduce rent as pandemic-era remote work trends take root.

Fujitsu will move its headquarters from the Shiodome area of central Tokyo to several buildings in the nearby city of Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture, in 2024, the company said Friday.

The company began reducing office space by half and consolidating smaller offices in July 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Employees currently work in the office about 20% of the time.

Approximately 105,000 companies in Japan relocated headquarters or head office functions between April 2020 and March 2023, according to Tokyo Shoko Research, a 60% jump from the April 2017 to March 2020 period.

Developer and transportation group Odakyu Electric Railway moved some of its primary functions from Tokyo’s Shinjuku district to Ebina, Kanagawa prefecture, in February. Tire producer Yokohama Rubber Company also moved its headquarters from Tokyo to Hiratsuka, Kanagawa prefecture, in March.

Remote work rates in Japan have been hovering between 15% and 20% since April 2022, most recently hitting 15.5% in July, according to nongovernmental organization Japan Productivity Center. Companies that encourage remote work have less need for large offices in urban centers.

Some local governments are trying to attract companies to move headquarters to their cities. Yokohama, Japan’s second most populous city, offers a range of benefits for relocation, including subsidies of up to 5 billion yen ($33.8 million) for land acquisition and construction as well as a corporate municipal tax break of up to 100 million yen per year. Isuzu Motors moved there last year.

Despite the trend, demand for offices in central Tokyo is still fairly strong. Many startups set up in the capital to improve their image when recruiting.

Several new office buildings are to go up in central Tokyo this year and 2025, leading to concerns about a supply glut.

“In central Tokyo, an oversupply of offices will continue for the time being, suppressing office rents,” said Toyokazu Imazeki, chief analyst at office leasing company Sanko Estate.

Japan is turning to middle-aged workers to help solve its labor shortage in the tech sector, with a pilot internship program launching next year for aspiring career changers.

The new initiative by Japan’s labor ministry will target non-tech industry workers — including those in their 40s and 50s — who have received some training toward becoming software engineers and programmers.

The interns will be placed at participating companies for up to six months, during which they will work with designated mentors over an extended period of time.

The ministry expects around 60 companies to participate in the program, which will be introduced on a trial basis. Interns will be paid for their work.

Japan will face a shortage of up to 800,000 workers in the information technology sector in 2030, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry predicts. The new program aims to help ease this shortage by encouraging older workers, who typically have a harder time entering new fields, to move into growth industries.

Around 2,400 individuals aged 35 and above are expected to take internships through the program during its initial two-year trial. If successful, the labor ministry will aim for a full-scale rollout.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida considers the digital sector an economic priority, and is looking to boost investment in talent in the field. The labor ministry requested 200 billion yen (around $1.35 billion) for retraining and other-related programs in the fiscal 2024 budget, part of which will be used for the new program.

More middle-aged and older workers in Japan are seeking career changes as the decline of traditional practices like lifetime employment and seniority-based systems creates increasing uncertainty.

The number of people aged 45 to 64 seeking to switch jobs or take on another job averaged 3.46 million last year, up 27% from four years earlier, according to government data — a faster rise than other age groups.

Meanwhile, a number of private-sector companies are taking steps of their own to cultivate digital know-how among workers.

All Nippon Airways in May launched a reskilling program for employees aged 50 to 58, encouraging them to acquire digital skills or become certified in areas such as accounting. Sapporo Holdings set a goal last year of making all of its employees digitally capable, and has provided training to around 6,000 employees groupwide.

“Just offering learning opportunities will not help advance the reskilling of workers,” said Hidenobu Nakahata, general manager of the human capital group at Hitachi. The industrial group is considered a pioneer in companywide reskilling, including for older employees. “You have to change employees’ mindset,” Nakahata said.

Update on the Netherlands

The Ajax-Feyenoord football game on Sunday 24 September that resulted in riots.

Schiphol has again received a nature permit allowing the airport to emit nitrogen. According to outgoing nitrogen minister Christianne van der Wal, Schiphol has taken enough nitrogen measures.

According to the minister, Schiphol has taken enough measures to reduce nitrogen effects. It is known that Schiphol has bought out farmers for a total of approximately 25 million euros to free up nitrogen space.

The House of Representatives had declared the subject controversial, but Van der Wal says he had to do this in order to adhere to the applicable procedures. And she wants Schiphol to comply with the rules again through the permit.

Schiphol has not had a nature permit for a long time and did not meet the nitrogen requirements. A blind eye was turned to this for years. Now that the airport has received that permit, that is over.

The nature permit applies to a maximum of 500,000 takeoffs and landings, Van der Wal reports. She does point out that from next spring an actual ceiling of 460,000 flight movements will apply. And the outgoing cabinet wants to limit the number of flights even further to 452,500. This does not have to do with the impact on nature, but with noise pollution.

Environmental organizations are disappointed. “This is a missed opportunity for the government to intervene and protect nature, local residents and the climate against pollution from Schiphol,” say Milieudefensie, Greenpeace, Nature and Environment Federation North Holland and Nature & Environment.

KLM says it is pleased that Schiphol has received the permit. “This gives us certainty to carry out our operation in the future.” The airline also points to a plan by the company to fly more economically and quietly, so that the number of flights at Schiphol does not have to be reduced.

This football season there will be an experiment in three cities with a digital reporting obligation for hooligans. The Ministry of Justice, the KNVB and the relevant municipalities agreed on this on Monday following the disturbances surrounding Ajax-Feyenoord.

The digital reporting obligation should make it impossible for rioters to attend a football match of their club, says Mayor Paul Depla (Breda).

It is not yet clear what the test will look like. It is also not yet known which cities are involved or when it will start. In an earlier trial with such a reporting obligation, rioters had to provide their location data in an app before, during and after the match.

The reason for the test is Sunday’s disturbances around Ajax-Feyenoord. The match was stopped several times and finally stopped due to fireworks on the field.

Riots broke out outside the Johan Cruijff ArenA. A number of Ajax players tried to force their way into the stadium. Ultimately, fifteen people were arrested.

It is not yet clear whether other measures will be taken to tackle riots. A letter to Parliament about this was already in the making, but is probably due to the unrest at the Klassieker this week.

The letter is a follow-up to the letter that outgoing Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgöz wrote in June. In it she said, among other things, that there are “plenty of opportunities to hand out punishments to supporters who misbehave”. She also concluded that “concrete results of the agreements made are lagging behind”.

The Netherlands also looks abroad when it comes to tackling riots. For example, the Football and Safety Steering Group recently visited England. The group is also looking at Germany and Belgium.

There will definitely be no data center on the business park in Zeewolde (Flevoland). The Council of State ruled this morning that the zoning plan for such a hypermodern data center is impracticable.The American company Meta, the parent company of Facebook, had set its sights on a piece of land in Zeewolde in 2021 for a so-called hyperscale data center. That is a data center of more than 10 hectares in size and with an electricity demand of 70 megawatts or more.

After much protest, Meta decided to pull the plug on the project in Flevoland last June . There were earlier demonstrations outside the town hall. Residents of Zeewolde helped opponents of the data center gain a majority in the council during the municipal elections of March last year.

The zoning plan still made it possible for a data center to be built on the Trekkersveld industrial estate, for example from another company, Omroep Flevoland explains. Nine organizations and objectors felt that this option should also be off the table and therefore went to the Council of State in The Hague.

LTO Noord and Windpark Zeewolde, among others, found the zoning plan for a data center unfeasible. Although the municipality of Zeewolde, the province and Polder Networks hired by Facebook had concluded an agreement, the land still belonged to the State. It was still uncertain whether he would want to sell the land to the municipality of Zeewolde.

The Council of State agrees with the objectors and believes that the municipal council should have had doubts about the feasibility of the zoning plan. The Council of State sees no other option than to annul the entire zoning plan.

Next week and on the weekend of 14 and 15 October, fewer trains will run to, from and via Schiphol. Due to work by ProRail, part of the tunnel tubes will be out of use during that period. This means that fewer trains can run via Schiphol.

Travelers should take into account fuller trains, which sometimes depart from a different platform than usual. The NS expects you to travel ten to thirty minutes longer.

Between 2 and 8 October, a sprinter and an intercity will run between Schiphol and Utrecht every hour. An intercity service runs to and from Almere once an hour. To the west and to and from Leiden, an intercity train runs four times an hour.

The same travel restrictions apply for the weekend of 14 and 15 October. On Saturdays, express and stop buses are used to and from Leiden, Sassenheim, Nieuw-Vennep, Hoofddorp and Schiphol. The express buses skip the smaller stations. You can find the departure times of the buses in the NS travel planner.

ProRail work is also planned at the end of November and beginning of December. The exact consequences of this for train transport are not yet known.

ProRail and the NS will work on the accessibility of Schiphol until 2028. For example, the tunnel tubes will undergo major maintenance, there will be more ways to get to Schiphol Plaza from the platforms and there will be a connection to the bus station. According to the NS, this is necessary because the number of train passengers via the airport has been growing for years.

2,000 people living in the vicinity of steel giant Tata Steel in IJmuiden are now participating in a mass claim against the company.

The chances that the mass claim will lead to a result have increased after the latest RIVM report on Friday. In that report, the RIVM drew the firm conclusion that there is a direct link between the substances that Tata Steel releases into the environment and the increased risk of cancer and other unpleasant diseases and forms of nuisance that are indeed more common in the region around the company.

In the nearest village of Wijk aan Zee, it costs residents an average of 2.5 months of their lives. 4% of current cancer cases are caused by Tata Steel. “That number only applies for now,” says Beer. “But how high were those percentages in the past?”

“We will have a conversation with Tata Steel in October or November,” says Beer. “Because that is what the law says: you must first reach an agreement with the opposing party. But I’m not naive. It was also recently announced that as early as 1975 it was known that carcinogenic substances were measured around Tata Steel. Tata Steel only said that ‘it is a historical fact’. You don’t make friends with those kinds of reactions when you know that people have died. So we do not think we can bring this case to a successful conclusion without the civil court.”

In that respect, the road to a claim for damages for those thousands of local residents is still long. Tata Steel must first admit guilt – whether or not forced by the court. The extent of the damage will then have to be examined and calculated for each individual. “How many more people will join and what will happen again tomorrow, I don’t know. But we will continue with this step by step,” says Beer.

The lawyer will not take on the role of lawyer himself in this case, he is already involved as a board member. “That is not allowed and is not possible. We are going to look for other lawyers for this.”

The mass claim is separate from the criminal case that lawyer Bénédicte Ficq has initiated against the executives of Tata Steel and on which the Public Prosecution Service will probably make a decision this year.

Update on Dujat & Members

We are pleased to welcome a new member to our community: InnovationQuarter, regional economic development agency for the Province of Zuid-Holland, also known as the greater Rotterdam – The Hague area. We look forward to welcoming them to our events!

On Thursday 21 September, Dujat and Rotterdam Partners organized an event to give an update on the latest developments concerning the energy transition in Rotterdam, combined with an interesting tour at Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. We would like to extend our thanks to Auke Ferwerda (Platform Zero) and Petrus Postma (H2Makers) for their presentations, and of course to Rotterdam Partners for the great cooperation!

Thank you for reading our newsletter. If your company is member and has any news to share in our next newsletter, let us know by contacting our office.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSADNHKNikkeiJapanToday