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Update on Japan
The Japanese government is planning to allow people to make their own choices about wearing face masks to prevent coronavirus infections, beginning on 13 March.
It decided on the plan on Friday 10 February, revising its current recommendation that masks be worn indoors. It now plans to allow people to make their own choices about wearing masks both indoors and outdoors.
The government plans to recommend wearing a mask when seeing a doctor or using crowded public transportation. It will also stress that masks are effective in protecting people at higher risk of serious illness while they are visiting crowded places when the virus is spreading.
In addition, the government will urge people to refrain from going out if they have symptoms or if a family member in the same household tests positive. If people in such situations cannot avoid going out for hospital visits or other reasons, they will be urged to avoid crowded places and wear masks.
As for schools, the government will not require mask-wearing in principle from April 1. It also decided that students will not have to wear masks at graduation ceremonies before that.
Japan readies ‘last hope’ measures to stop falling births Experts say next 10 years are critical as Kishida eyes ‘children first’ society, Nikkei reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hopes to change the demographic trend with what he has promised will be an “unprecedented” set of measures. Underscoring the gravity of the challenge in a parliamentary speech on 23 January, he said the world’s third-largest economy was “on the brink” of social dysfunction.
Japan has been stewing over the problem for decades and has addressed it before, earning praise for some policies. Yet the pace of decline is accelerating. The COVID-19 pandemic also appears to have delayed couples’ decisions to marry and start families.
While the absolute number of potential parents is dropping, studies also show that many are wary of the financial toll. Kishida emphasized the urgency. “The need to address the issue of children and child-rearing policies is a challenge that cannot be postponed,” he said. “We must create a children-first economic society and reverse the birthrate.” The prime minister said the plan is to double the budget for child-rearing policies, focusing on three pillars: economic support, child care services and reform of working styles.
The details have yet to be revealed. But the first pillar suggests there will be an expansion of financial aid, such as increasing or broadening allowances for households with kids. Currently, the government offers 10,000 yen to 15,000 yen (€70 to €105) per month for each child until graduation from junior high school (age 15), with some limitations on higher-income families.
Government officials say the second pillar will mean strengthening the quantity and quality of child care, including after-school care and services for sick kids, as well as an expansion of postpartum services.
The third pillar is likely to involve improvements to the parental leave system and other steps that would create a work environment more conducive to having children.
Some experts, meanwhile, say child-rearing and broader economic policies should be closely linked. “Looking at the economy over the past 30 years since the burst of the bubble economy, every time the economy has worsened, it has taken a toll on the younger generation,” said Takumi Fujinami, advanced senior economist at the Japan Research Institute (JRI), referring to depressed wages and a shift away from lifetime employment toward more temporary positions. “The result of this has now become apparent in the declining birthrate. So even if the government gives a small amount of benefits, without solving this problem, people will naturally think, ‘There is nothing we can do with just this [amount of money].’ “At the end of the day, I don’t think the birthrate will improve unless the economic environment improves.”
Likewise, echoing the opposition’s argument about women, some experts say the situation is unlikely to improve without fundamental changes in conditions for female workers. “Gender equality is important in terms of helping women to feel more secure in employment,” stressed Thang Leng Leng, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS), who studies Japanese society including aging and gender.
Greater openness to immigration, Thang said, could also be part of the solution. “The main concern for the economy is that you don’t have enough people. Of course, you can use technology [to compensate], but you still need people. If you can have a more open migration policy, where [workers] come in, they can eventually settle in.”
Fujinami says there’s no time to lose. “Some may say it is already too late,” he said, “but I think we can say [the next decade] is the last hope.”
Efforts are growing in Japan to offer support for people affected by Monday’s massive earthquake in Turkey.
On Tuesday 7 February, staff of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, a nongovernmental organization, started offering relief supplies, such as blankets and paper diapers, to affected people in Turkey. The NGO, based in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward, which announced the launch of an emergency support program right after the quake struck, received over ¥20 million in donations by Thursday.
“Donations are coming in at a faster pace compared with past earthquakes,” an AAR Japan official said. This could be because Japanese people traditionally have a high interest in Turkey and many people are paying close attention to world affairs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the official noted.
Peace Winds Japan, an NGO based in the town of Jinsekikogen in Hiroshima Prefecture, said it dispatched an emergency support team of doctors, nurses and rescue staff to Turkey. Since arriving in the country on Tuesday, the team has been engaging in distributing water, food and other goods.
In the town of Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, which has a long-standing friendship with Turkey, donation boxes have been set up at four separate locations, including the municipal government office. The friendship between Turkey and Kushimoto started after its residents worked to rescue crew members of an Ottoman Empire naval frigate Ertugrul, which was shipwrecked in waters off the town, in 1890.
The Tokyo Camii and Diyanet Turkish Culture Center in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on Tuesday has started seeking donations through the internet. It is one of the largest mosques in Japan.
The quake also hit hard neighboring Syria, where a civil war continues between the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebel forces. Following the temblor, the United Nations has been struggling to offer support for people in areas controlled by the rebels.
Shoichiro Toyoda, the honorary chairman of Toyota Motor who transformed the Japanese automaker into a leading global brand, died of heart failure on Tuesday 14 February, the company said. He was 97.
Toyoda, a third-generation scion of the founding family who inherited its stake in the business, is credited with establishing a culture of quality control at the firm, helping it evolve into a world-leading automaker. He was also responsible for pushing Toyota, which started as a loom manufacturer, to produce vehicles overseas. Born on Feb. 27, 1925, Toyoda paved the way for the Japanese automaker to grow into one of the most globally recognized brands.
A grandson of Sakichi Toyoda, who founded the Toyota group, and son of Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota’s predecessor Toyota Motor Co., Shoichiro Toyoda joined the company as a board member at just 27 years of age. He was named a managing director in 1961 for his endeavors in improving product quality. He became executive vice president in 1972 and in 1981, and he was named president of Toyota’s sales organization.
Following a merger of production and sales organizations a year later, he took over the helm of the newly integrated Toyota Motor, going on to serve as chairman of the board from 1992 to 1999. Toyoda propelled overseas production on the back of Japan’s economic growth, with Toyota, headquartered in Aichi Prefecture, setting up a joint venture with General Motors in the United States in 1984.
Plants in Kentucky in the U.S. as well as in Canada were built in 1986, significantly boosting the company’s production capacity. It was also in the 1980s when Toyota actively expanded beyond the North American market. The auto giant currently has production sites all over the world, including Europe, China and Africa.
Even after leaving the board in 2009, Toyoda continued to have a heavy influence over the company, which is now one of the world’s largest automakers. Toyoda had been honorary chairman since 1999.
Mitsubishi Materials will begin commercial recycling of rare metals such as cobalt and lithium from used lithium-ion batteries taken from electric vehicles, starting in fiscal 2025, Nikkei has learned. The Japanese company aims to increase its processing capacity to 6,000 tonnes per year by around fiscal 2030.
It is technically difficult to extract lithium and other materials at low cost, especially from lithium-ion batteries. Used EV batteries are typically melted down and recycled for steel and other metals. Mitsubishi Materials and its partner, Envipro Holdings, will develop a technology to recover rare metals efficiently from batteries by soaking powder from batteries called “black mass” in sulfuric acid and other solutions. Mitsubishi Materials aims to improve the efficiency of the extraction process, drawing on its expertise in copper smelting.
Approximately 500 tonnes of cobalt can be recovered from 6,000 tonnes of black mass, depending on the composition of the batteries to be recycled. That is equivalent to the raw materials needed to power roughly 40,000 EVs by simple calculation.
Other major nonferrous metal producers are also expanding their recycling efforts, as the spread of EVs is expected to tighten supplies of rare metals. The Japanese battery industry aims to create a system to circulate resources within the country to avoid excessive dependence on resource-rich countries or other overseas exporters.
Lithium-ion batteries for EVs contain rare metals such as cobalt and lithium in their cathodes, but supplies are unstable. The Democratic Republic of Congo, in central Africa, accounts for 70% of cobalt production and is struggling with internal conflict and child labor issues. Lithium is relatively abundant, but it is difficult to increase production quickly and producers have not kept pace with demand.
Japan relies on imports of both cobalt and lithium for batteries, and the industry sees it as imperative to create a system to recycle resources domestically to foster widespread adoption of EVs.
Mitsubishi Materials and recycler Envipro Holdings hope to have their battery recycling business up and running in fiscal 2025. By 2030, the partners hope to raise annual processing capacity by two to three times to 6,000 tonnes.
The investment is expected to come to several billion yen, or tens of millions of dollars. The project will also collect used batteries from hybrid vehicles and home appliances, and is expected to gradually increase the share of used EV batteries that it collects. The recycled metals will be sold to producers of raw materials for batteries.
Update on the Netherlands
More than 80,000 people were rescued in Turkey, but there are no clear figures for Syria.
More than a week after the severe earthquakes in Turkey, a 13-year-old girl was found alive by Dutch rescue dogs under the rubble in the Turkish region of Hatay. A spokesperson for the Rescue Dogs Foundation RHWW says that a recovery team pulled the girl from under the rubble after a clue from the dogs.
Earlier today, a 10-year-old girl was pulled alive from under the rubble. She managed to survive more than 183 hours in a collapsed building in the southern province of Kahramanmaras, Turkish media reported.
Successful rescues like this are becoming increasingly rare. The international rescue operation in both Syria and Turkey is coming to an end, because the chance of survival of victims is now minimal. The combined death toll of the two countries now stands at more than 37,000.
At least 80,000 people have been rescued from collapsed buildings in the Turkish disaster area. The national disaster management authority AFAD reports this in an update on the rescue operation. Many thousands of international teams, including at least one from the Netherlands, are contributing to the huge operation. Turkey speaks of more than 200,000 rescue workers.
The detailed Turkish statistics are in stark contrast to the scant information from the Syrian disaster area. There are photos and videos of successful rescues, but no overview of the number of people rescued.
The aid is difficult because several rebel groups are active in northern Syria. A large part of the disaster area is not under the control of the Syrian regime. A few days ago, President Assad allowed UN aid convoys into the country for the first time. Trucks were able to enter the country via a border crossing with Turkey. Tonight, the regime announced that it will open two additional border crossings with Turkey, so that the UN can provide more aid.
Residents now often search for survivors by hand. There are also aid organizations such as the White Helmets that search the debris.
As in Turkey, there are hopeful stories of rescued children in Syria. For example, baby Aya, who was pulled from under the rubble last week, is now in good health, according to the hospital.
At the end of last year, the Dutch economy turned out to be stronger than expected. In the last three months of 2022, the economy grew by 0.6%, after a small contraction in the previous quarter. “Growth is everywhere,” says CBS economist Peter Hein van Mulligen. Since the economy has not contracted for two quarters in a row, a recession has not materialised.
In recent months, there have been many fears of a recession, which would indicate that companies and consumers will earn less for a longer period of time. Because the economy contracted by 0.2%in the third quarter of 2022 and inflation rose to above 10% in the fall.
“That made the Dutch insecure. The fact that the 0.6% growth in the last quarter has now averted the recession helps against that uncertainty,” says Van Mulligen. According to him, many things contributed to the good growth figure. “Construction, exports and consumer spending,” sums up the chief economist.
“We even seemed to save a little less and therefore also spend more.” This was especially noticeable in December. In that month alone, consumers spent 9.9% more than a year earlier. “And that’s adjusted for inflation.” The economist thinks that purchasing power support measures and energy compensation from the government have “undoubtedly helped”.
But the extra spending and extra demand may well keep inflation higher. Van Mulligen: “Because the classic economic idea is that you have to accept a recession in order to lower inflation. Declining demand puts less pressure on prices. But inflation will remain just as high for the time being due to the indirect effect of higher energy prices.”
Inflation was already 7.6% in January 2023. The percentage is a lot lower than in the last months of 2022, but still very high.
The number of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands that voluntarily quit because they no longer see any profit in their company is increasing. At the same time, the number of companies going bankrupt fell in January after a few months of increases.
The number of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands voluntarily giving up is increasing. Veilingbedrijf Troostwijk sees a greater increase in the number of voluntary business closures and sales of business units than in the number of bankruptcies. In January, the number of business closures was 20% to 30% higher than a year earlier, Troostwijk reports.
‘Entrepreneurs now receive the annual accounts and see that it has all become very marginal,’ says Lex van Teeffelen, lecturer in SME financing at the Hogeschool van Utrecht. “Moreover, this is the right time to stop, because the job market is still good.” He says the increase in the number of quits is a healthy sign, because it shows that entrepreneurs are choosing to sell a company now before they end up with personal debts and eventually bankruptcy.
The number of bankruptcies in January amounted to 228, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Monday. That is 35 fewer than the month before. It is the first drop in four months, a period in which the number of insolvencies rose to the highest level since May 2020. Most insolvencies occurred in trade, while the transport and storage sectors were hit the hardest in relative terms.
More fruit and vegetables, more unsalted nuts, less red and processed meat and fewer sugary drinks. The RIVM Food Consumption Survey (VCP) shows that the Dutch have started to eat and drink healthier in recent years.
Where 128 grams of vegetables were eaten per day between 2007 and 2010 in the survey, this has risen to 163 grams in 2021. The number of grams of fruit has also increased, from 103 to 129 grams. Most Dutch people do not yet comply with the advice of the Health Council, which prescribes 200 grams of vegetables per day, but the percentage of adults who do meet the guideline has risen from 16% to 29%.
In addition, the amount of red and processed meat has fallen by more than 20% compared to the previous survey from 2007 to 2010. This is in line with the advice of the Health Council, which advises limiting the consumption of such meat due to health risks such as colorectal cancer.
Moreover, the Dutch are not only drinking less sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juice, they are also drinking more tea and water. The increase among the male participants in the survey is striking: their water consumption increased by 72%. For women there was an increase of 34%, but they already drank larger amounts of water.
The poll also revealed a number of negative changes. For example, fewer people eat fish once a week. The use of nutritional supplements has also increased. The Health Council advises against its use, unless people belong to a specific group for which it is recommended.
Update on Dujat & Members
We are pleased to welcome Protiviti B.V. as new member of Dujat. We look forward to introducing them to our network at our upcoming events!
International School of Amsterdam (ISA) is happy to report that their Week in the Workplace is starting again on 5 June, 2023, and they are looking for companies who are interested in participating. Last year Dujat participated and hosted a Japanese student, which was a great experience!
Click here for more information.
We are pleased to welcome Chiyoda Corporation Netherlands B.V. and Interlloyd Averij B.V. as new members of Dujat. We look forward to introducing them to our network at our upcoming events!
On Thursday 16 February 2023, 16:00-18:00 (Japanese time), the Netherlands Embassy in Japan will organize the Innovation Webinar on Chip-Integration activities in the Netherlands.
This Event is part of a series towards strengthened bilateral high-tech partnerships, for government, business and innovation. It is also a pre-event to inform Japanese stakeholders on the 19-23 June 2023 Innovation Mission to Japan on Semiconductors, with focus on chip design, photonics, heterogeneous integration & equipment.
The Innovation Webinar will be opened by Eric van Kooij, Counsellor for Innovation, Science and Technology, Netherlands Embassy in Tokyo, and complementary speech by Hisashi Kanazashi, Director IT Industry Division, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). You will be updated on recent activities about heterogeneous integration (prof. Bram Nauta, University of Twente IC Design Group, and Bart van ‘t Ende, OostNL), photonic chip integration (Dr. Jan-Laurens van der Steen, Photonics Integration Technology Center, PITC located in Eindhoven) and chip & heterogeneous integration (Dr. Marco Koelink, Chip Integration Technology Center, CITC located in Nijmegen). The Embassy will wrap up with upcoming activities and objectives.
Netherlands Innovation Webinar on Chip-Integration
- Time & date: 16:00 – 18:00 (Japanese time), Thursday 16 February 2023
- Venue: Online (You will receive a link to participate a few days before the event)
- Organizer: Netherlands Embassy in Japan
- Target audience: Professionals in the field from Japanese government, knowledge institutes and industry
- Language: English
- Registration: Please click this link to register (contact Rob Stroeks if the link does not open).
- See here for updates and more information.
On Monday 23 January, the first Dujat event of the year took place at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen. At this New Year’s Reception, we were pleased to welcome our honored guests Mr. Mitsuru Myochin, Minister of the Embassy of Japan in the Netherlands, Mr. Tjapko Poppens, Mayor of the City of Amstelveen, and Mr. Naoto Miyamoto, Chairman of The Japanese Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands (JCC).
We also extend our gratitude to Mr. Stefan van Raay, director of the Cobra Museum for welcoming us to their museum while they were still busy setting up the new exhibition. We could definitely enjoy the small sneak preview of Cobra 75: Danish Modern Art, which will kick off from Friday 27 January. Many thanks to all and we look forward to seeing you at our next event!
Thank you for reading our newsletter, as mentioned earlier the next one will be sent to you on 11 April.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl
Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands
Sources: Nu.nl, NOS, FD, NHK, Nikkei, JapanToday, JapanTimes