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Update on Japan
The Japanese government has decided on a package of economic measures worth over 17 trillion yen, or 106 billion euros, including income tax cuts.
The Cabinet on Thursday 2 November approved the package designed to address the impact of higher prices as well as facilitate sustained pay increases and growth potential.
As a means to help counter rising prices, income and resident taxes will be cut by about 260 dollars per taxpayer and dependent. The government plans to discuss specific plans toward the year-end for implementation as early as June 2024.
Low-income households that are exempt from resident taxes will receive about 460 dollars.
The ongoing subsidies for oil wholesalers and utility bill relief measures will be extended through April next year. Toward the goal of ensuring sustained pay raises and bolstering the country’s economic growth potential, the government will support capital investment by small- and mid-size companies to boost productivity.
It also plans to increase funding for semi-conductor production hub construction within Japan. The government aims to submit a supplementary budget plan to the Diet in November to finance the plan.
Trash collectors in samurai costumes took to Tokyo’s streets on Wednesday 1 November, theatrically wielding garbage tongs and flicking litter left from an evening of Halloween revelry into wicker baskets on their backs.
Dressed in hats and boldly patterned black-and-white tunics, the group, known as Gomihiroi Samurai, or trash-picking samurai, has attracted a large fan base since it formed in 2006, with nearly 800,000 followers on video-sharing platform TikTok.
“If people are paying attention to our performance because they think it’s fun, they might as well start paying attention to the trash problem itself,” said one of the group, Keisuke Naka, as he cleared the area under a large sign reading “No Littering”.
While Japan is famed overseas for its cleanliness, that image is only partly true, added Naka, a trash-picking samurai for seven years, as he gathered empty beer cans, plastic bottles and cigarette butts in a district known for its nightlife.
Occasions such as Halloween leave a lot of trash, as street drinking has become common in bustling areas and tourist spots, Naka said. Residents of the area say the trash-picking samurai have made a difference.
Regarding the Halloween celebration, Shibuya Ward asked people not to come for Halloween, and while there were still crowds, officials say there were less than previous years. While some welcomed the change, others are wondering if it’s harmed the area’s reputation.
Seven-Eleven Japan, operator of the country’s biggest convenience store chain, will start employing generative artificial intelligence for more efficient product planning, thereby taking a new approach in the retail sector where such technology has been mainly used to sell products.
From the spring of 2024, the company will use AI to generate texts and images for new products based on analysis of store sales data and consumer feedback through social media.
This is expected to reduce the time required for product planning by up to 90%, and to better align product distribution with emerging trends and customer needs.
The company recently created the infrastructure for a cloud-based peculiar information technology system. It is equipped with generative AI from companies like U.S. startup OpenAI, Google and Stability AI, a U.K. startup, and will process data from customer sales, product manufacturers and social media.
Seven-Eleven also expects AI to generate draft proposals for new products.
This will all streamline a process that currently relies on employees to develop product ideas by analyzing consumer surveys and holding multiple internal meetings before taking them to market.
While using generative AI for product development is a new departure, global retailers are already using other specifically developed technologies, such as in-store cameras that identify individual customers and then observe their product preferences. There are also smartphone alerts to suggest products related to health conditions, including blood pressure.
Among nearly 9,000 Seven-Eleven employees, not counting franchise employee, about 1,000 at managerial level have begun using the system. This will be expanded to those involved in developing and markets products by spring 2024.
Seven-Eleven has already introduced the new AI infrastructure in one department, and that led to a reduction in internal meetings of about 80%. The system is expected to reduce the time needed to complete each product planning from as much as 10 months to just one, for example. Employees should be able to use the saved time completing other tasks and working on product improvement.
Seven & i Holdings, the holding group, currently markets about 3,400 products under the Seven Premium brand. The AI is expected to broaden the overall product lineup by grasping consumer trends and needs more quickly.
Exchanging business cards is part of Japan’s basic work culture. But job-hopping and side jobs are becoming more widespread, and managing these cards can be troublesome. Some firms see this as a business opportunity and are now offering digital versions.
Tokyo start-up Studio Prairie has come up with plastic IC digital business cards. The user holds the card up to the smartphone of the person they are meeting and the information it contains is immediately transferred.
Users can also customize their cards by adding company profiles or even pictures and video clips they want to share.
Sansan is a business card management firm. Subscribers to its app can now introduce themselves merely by bringing their phones together. The information registered on the app is updated automatically when the subscriber is transferred to another post or moves to a different company.
A labor ministry report released in September this year reveals that 3.03 million people changed jobs in 2022. That’s the first increase in three years.
A Japanese telecom giant is planning to roll out a user-friendly and low-cost generative AI platform for business use.
The product is scheduled for release in March next year. The technology will be based on a large language model, “tsuzumi,” named after a handheld Japanese drum.
The company says tsuzumi’s developers are focusing on strengthening its ability to function in the Japanese language.
It also claims clients will be able to learn to use the platform quickly and easily, as it will be customized for specific business fields.
NTT says that for these reasons, tsuzumi will not require large data-processing facilities.
The company plans in the future to link up smaller data facilities to function collectively like a large-scale model. NTT’s next-generation optical and wireless network, IOWN, will be used for the purpose.
Update on the Netherlands
More than 300 schools are participating in the so-called School Elections this month. Schoolchildren and MBO students can vote for parties that participate in the House of Representatives elections. The votes do not officially count, but the young people experience what it is like to vote.
Since 1 November, secondary school students and MBO students have been able to vote for political parties participating in the House of Representatives elections on 22 November.
These ‘shadow elections’ are being held for the thirtieth time by knowledge institute ProDemos, exactly sixty years after the first edition. The organization tells NU.nl that about 325 schools are participating. Schools can still register in the coming weeks. The results will be announced in The Hague on 21 November. Students will therefore discuss with the politicians present.
In the shadow elections of the Provincial Council elections earlier this year, GroenLinks received 13% of the votes. D66 finished in second place with almost 12%, followed by PVV (almost 11%). More than 25,800 students and MBO students then cast their votes. During the previous House of Representatives elections in 2021, more than 50,000 students participated at 284 schools.
“You learn the most about elections by experiencing how elections work yourself,” can be read on the School Elections website. “That is why the Student Elections are organized in such a way that the voting process for the Student Elections is comparable to that of real elections. Students can vote in a polling station specially set up at school. The young people vote on a ballot paper with a red pencil.”
The ballots are collected in a ballot box. The votes are then counted by students who function as polling station workers. “The School Elections help to lower the threshold for young people to actually vote in real elections.”
From the next school year, mobile phones will be banned in primary schools and special education from the new school year. Tablets and smartwatches are also no longer allowed to be taken into the classroom. The outgoing education minister Mariëlle Paul has agreed this with several educational organizations.
Mobile phones distract students from their school work, causing them to perform less well, the minister says. According to her, the agreement provides clarity in the classroom. “We have noticed in secondary education that it quickly gets used to and gives peace of mind to both students and teachers.”
Primary schools and schools in specialized education hereby join the agreement that was already made with secondary schools before the summer. Students there will no longer be allowed to take their mobile phones to class from January 2024. In primary schools and special education, the agreement takes effect when the new school year starts.
Mobile phones may only be used if they are necessary for the content of the lesson, for example in a lesson about media literacy, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science writes in a press release. Even if students are dependent on it, for example for medical reasons or because of a disability, they can continue to use their telephone.
“Many children have a mobile phone at a young age,” says Minister Paul. “That is why I am pleased that we have now agreed for all schools that mobile phones are in principle no longer allowed in the classroom. In this way we protect the students, while it remains possible to use a mobile phone if really necessary.”
It is important for schools within special education that clear agreements are made with employees, parents and students. It is possible that the telephones will be needed more often in the classroom.
The government will later check whether the agreements have the desired effect or whether a legal ban may be necessary to ban mobile phones in the classroom.
Suppose you are 32 years old and decide to work one day less per week, this means that you will receive 120 euros less net per month during your pension. But almost 70% of Dutch people often do not consider the consequences of working fewer hours, according to a study by Money Wise, an initiative of the Ministry of Finance.
You would say that the 120 euros per month less pension is not much, but that depends on how much you earn and it can be the difference between making ends meet a little easier or having a little more difficulty with it, says Lisa Brüggen, director of pension knowledge center Netspar. And some people will work even fewer days than just that one day, she says.
Because it is very far away for most people, they don’t think about it that much, says Brüggen. However, the lower pension does not have to be a problem for everyone, she says. For some consumers it is a conscious choice and they simply adjust their spending habits to their financial situation, she says.
“But at the same time we see dire cases, where the effects are very large and people who have enormous regrets. We see in the Netherlands that there is a very large pension gap between men and women and in many situations this can have major consequences.”
In some cases, consumers do not take action because they apparently felt that it was not necessary, according to Brüggen. But sometimes it is useful to take action, for example by saving extra yourself or arranging something with your partner, she says.
Despite all the problems that may arise, she does not argue against working less. Brüggen advocates that people are aware of all the consequences, not just for the current salary. “Log in to mijnpensioenoverzicht.nl, and with just a few clicks you will have an overview of where you stand.”
Almost half of the Dutch working population works part-time. Nearly two-thirds of working women do so part-time, compared to 28% of men. As a result, women accrue less pension than men.
Last year, far fewer offices were converted into homes than in 2021. For the first time since 2015, fewer than 10,000 buildings were converted into homes.
Offices make up a large part of all residential conversions. Old schools, care locations and shops are also being transformed into houses.
In 2022, 3,100 homes will be created from former office buildings, reports statistics agency CBS. That is 30% less than a year earlier. An increase can be seen in buildings such as schools and healthcare locations.
A total of 9,565 buildings were converted into homes last year. This means that one in ten new houses is a converted building.
Most of the buildings converted last year are larger than those of previous years. But transformed houses are still relatively small. Most are smaller than 75 square meters, CBS reports.
In Flevoland, the number of converted houses has increased considerably: from 75 to 355. More than three quarters of these are in Almere. A few major projects were completed there last year. South Holland is the province with the most transformations.
In the Netherlands, many more new houses will have to be built in the coming years to solve the housing shortage. But the construction of new houses now takes longer due to, among other things, the nitrogen problem and staff shortages.
Update on Dujat & Members
Dujat, HVG Law LLP and Nippon Recruitment are pleased to invite you to attend the seminar “Recruitment & Retention – Key Factors in 2023”, taking place on Thursday 23 November at the office of HVG Law LLP in Amsterdam.
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.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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