65歳まで雇用 若者の仕事を奪わぬように

2013-03-31 06:02:24 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 30, 2013)
Older Japanese must work longer without crowding out the young
65歳まで雇用 若者の仕事を奪わぬように(3月29日付・読売社説)

The revised Law for the Stabilization of Employment of Elderly People, which requires companies to allow all employees to stay on the payroll until they are 65 if they wish to do so, takes effect on April 1.

The revised law comes in conjunction with a gradual increase in the eligibility age for benefits under the government-run kosei nenkin corporate pension insurance scheme to 65 from the current 60, beginning from April. The revision was enacted in August last year.

The purpose of the legislation is understandable: the need to help people deal with a period in which they might receive no pension. It can be said the times we live in require companies to continue employing all of their elderly workers as long as they desire to stay on at their jobs.

The current law calls for companies to make efforts to enable employees to work until the age of 65 after the retirement age of 60, either by abolishing the mandatory age limit, raising the age limit or implementing reemployment measures for retired workers.

When companies choose one of these reemployment systems, the current law is designed to enable the firm to set certain criteria in selecting employees eligible to continue working, such as health conditions and motivation for working.


Elderly can boost economy

The latest revision to the system is mainly aimed at doing away with the stipulation of criteria, to ban companies from retaining only certain selected workers.
Under the revised law, the government will issue a warning to companies that fail to comply with the new system. If they then refuse to comply, the companies' names will be made public.

To be sure, the nation's average life expectancy has risen markedly and the health of people in their 60s has improved a great deal.

It is significant that people aged 60 to 64, who have so far been supported by the pension system, will instead be able to support the social security system by working and paying premiums for the pension program.

It is hoped that people in this age bracket will receive higher income and also engage in higher spending, thus boosting the country's economic growth.

However, a wide divergence tends to appear among people in their 60s in terms of their willingness and ability to work.

It is reasonable that the business world at one time opposed mandatory continuation of employment up to the age of 65 on the grounds that the system would increase personnel costs, weighing on corporate management.

It is of the highest importance to ensure companies under the new system never deprive young people of employment opportunities for the sake of continued employment of the elderly. They also must never use the system as an excuse to increase the number of nonregular workers.

However, about 40 percent of employers responding to a poll said they will "curb employment of young recruits" following the implementation of the revised law.


'Age of lifelong work'

To prevent the dynamism of society as a whole from dwindling, all companies are urged to use ingenuity to provide jobs for both young and old.

Many firms will have to make important judgments regarding allocation of personnel expenses, such as curbing pay raises for employees in their 40s and 50s.

Meanwhile, the United States, Britain and Germany have already decided to raise their pension eligibility age to 67 or 68.

Given that Japan has been graying more rapidly than these countries, it will be hard for this nation to avoid further raising the pension eligibility age beyond 65.

Since the graying of society coupled with low birthrates will certainly be accelerated, people's working lives will most likely become longer. Under the circumstances, companies and workers alike must think hard about what should be done to prepare for the advent of an "age of lifelong work."

We urge the government to work out and implement policies conducive to expanding employment by giving more teeth to measures for encouraging the development of industries with high growth potential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 29, 2013)
(2013年3月29日01時38分  読売新聞)


経済連携交渉 日本主導で自由貿易圏加速を

2013-03-30 06:46:11 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 29, 2013)
Japan should take upper hand in FTA negotiations
経済連携交渉 日本主導で自由貿易圏加速を(3月28日付・読売社説)

Prompted by Japan's recent announcement it would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, various large-scale, free trade agreement initiatives have begun materializing one after another.

On Tuesday, the inaugural round of negotiations on a trilateral FTA between Japan, China and South Korea kicked off in Seoul.

Tokyo has also agreed with the European Union to begin talks in April on an economic partnership agreement. In May, negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will begin, with countries including Japan, China, South Korea and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expected to join the talks.

We can say the trend of nations and regions vying to create FTA frameworks beneficial to themselves has accelerated.

As Japan is scheduled to participate in multiple FTA negotiations, there is an opportunity for the nation to proactively engage in establishing regional trade rules. The government must devote itself to realizing these FTAs at the earliest opportunity, paving the way for boosting Japan's economic growth.

Regarding FTA talks, it is clear that Japan is lagging behind South Korea, which has already concluded FTAs with the United States and the EU. It has been a considerable time since Japan presented FTA proposals to its Asian neighbors and the EU, but talks on these have been slow to materialize.


Japan rallying from behind

However, the EU, China and South Korea have recently begun making favorable comments regarding negotiations with Japan, following Tokyo's move to join TPP talks.

It appears the EU intends to counter the influence of the TPP with an EU-Japan FTA. The EU has also agreed with the United States to begin FTA negotiations, with talks expected to start soon. It is obvious that the EU is concerned about the possibility of being left behind in the global trend.

We assume Beijing has a similar goal. The problem of the Senkaku Islands persists between Japan and China, but it seems China is trying to counter the United States' deepening influence in Asia by engaging in talks with Japan and South Korea.

Japan's challenge is clear--whether it can take the initiative in setting up trade rules.

Points of contention in Japan-EU talks will be eliminating the EU's high tariffs on automobiles and other products, as well as Japan's market deregulation in fields such as cars and medical equipment. Reaching an agreement quickly presents Japan and the EU with many hurdles to overcome.

The outlook of negotiations between Japan, China and South Korea is also unclear, as issues such as intellectual property rights and competition policies are expected to be discussed at the talks.


Need to be a tough negotiator

Regarding TPP talks, countries are expected to employ various tactics on whether to exempt agricultural products, such as rice, from tariff elimination.

A major premise for Japan in joining the TPP talks is to seek to create a new free trade framework that will enhance the level of the market openness of the region.

Meanwhile, by simultaneously undertaking other FTA negotiations, Japan will be able to put pressure on the United States, the EU and China. The government must use its bargaining power to pursue the interests of the nation in the negotiations. It is also important to keep in mind the necessity of inducing China to comply with international trade rules.

As Japan--one of the world's major exporters--has recorded trade deficits in recent years, it is urgent to get the nation back on its feet. Japan's announcement to join the TPP talks had a far-reaching impact on the world. To exploit this opportunity, Japan must prepare a sharp strategy for the negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 28, 2013)
(2013年3月28日01時13分  読売新聞)


衆院選違憲判決 国会は司法の警告に即応せよ

2013-03-29 06:05:03 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 28, 2013)
Diet should respond quickly to warnings from judiciary
衆院選違憲判決 国会は司法の警告に即応せよ(3月27日付・読売社説)


Never before has the legislature been so harshly criticized for its negligence by the judiciary.

Rulings have been handed down in 15 of 16 lawsuits heard at high courts and high court branches across Japan over vote-value disparities in the December House of Representatives election.

In 13 of the cases, the courts found results in related single-seat constituencies in the Dec. 16 lower house election to be unconstitutional. In the two remaining cases, the election results were found to be in an "unconstitutional state."
There was not a single case in which the election results were ruled constitutional.

The rulings were handed down as a result of examinations by about 50 high court judges. The Diet must seriously take the rulings to heart and quickly take concrete measures to correct vote-value disparities.


Rectification taking too long

Do vote-value disparities in last year's lower house election--with votes in one constituency worth up to 2.43 times as much as those in another--violate the Constitution, which guarantees people's equality under the law?

If so, is the time period in which the Diet left the disparities unaddressed permissible? These were points of contention in the lawsuits.

The rulings that found the election results to be unconstitutional judged that vote-value disparities violate the Constitution and that a reasonable time period to correct the disparities had elapsed.

The rulings that found the election results to be in an unconstitutional state consider the vote-value disparities to violate the Constitution but view the time period in which the disparities were left unaddressed as permissible.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the 2009 lower house election, in which the maximum vote-value disparity was 2.30-to-1, was in an unconstitutional state. The disparity widened further in the lower house election last year.

Therefore, it was only to be expected that a series of tough judgments would be handed down by the high courts.

But how large can a vote-value disparity grow and still be considered constitutional? The rulings handed down so far are not necessarily clear on this point.

Another problem is that the Hiroshima High Court and the high court's Okayama branch declared results in certain single-seat constituencies in the December lower house election were invalid.

Other courts have applied the legal principle of "circumstantial ruling" and found election results themselves to be valid in consideration of the confusion that might be created if they were ruled invalid.

But the Hiroshima High Court did not apply this circumstantial ruling principle, saying, "The Supreme Court's right to determine the constitutionality of laws has been disregarded."

The high court also expressed a view that September of last year, 1-1/2 years after the top court's ruling, should have been the deadline for rectifying vote-value disparities.

However, no concrete basis for this standard was given.


Undue judicial interference

The Hiroshima High Court also ruled that the election results in the Hiroshima constituencies will be rendered invalid after Nov. 26 this year.

The decision took into account the fact that the Council on House of Representatives Electoral Districts has been working on revamping these districts since Nov. 26 last year.

It is not clear if a one-year grace period is necessary before the ruling takes effect.

Staying the effect of the ruling can be taken as an intrusion by the judiciary into territory where discretionary power is granted to the legislature.

The Okayama branch of the Hiroshima High Court immediately invalidated the result for an Okayama Prefecture constituency as the principle of equality in the value of each vote, it said, took precedence over concerns for political confusion. We find such a ruling unacceptably reckless.

The existing Public Offices Election Law has no detailed stipulations about revoting, should an election be deemed invalid.

For example, no clear legal procedures for revoting are mentioned, including whether new elections should be held only in constituencies where lawmakers lost their seats, or if instead the lower house should be dissolved for a general election.

Should the rulings nullifying the election results stick, Japan's politics would be thrown into utter confusion.

All rulings related to vote disparities are expected to be taken to the Supreme Court. It is hoped that the top court will make a realistic decision.


Parties must cooperate on solution

Meanwhile, the government and ruling parties should ensure that a draft bill be enacted swiftly to reduce five seats in less populated constituencies in an effort to narrow vote disparities among the least and most represented constituencies to within a 1-to-2 ratio. Then, they must take on the task of revamping the electoral districts.

Reducing five seats without increasing any seats in densely populated districts, as stipulated in the draft bill, is based on the current zoning method, which the top court deemed a major cause for producing vote disparities and urged to be abolished.
The current zoning method first allocates one seat each to Tokyo and 46 prefectures out of the 300 district seats and then distributes the rest of the seats to each prefecture based on population.

As the ruling by the Okayama branch indicated, the reduction of a mere five seats does not amount to an appropriate legislative step to rectify the gap in the value of each vote.

There is, however, no prospect in sight for a sweeping electoral rezoning, hampered by conflicting interests of parties in both the ruling and opposition camps.

The Liberal Democratic Party's reform plan calls for reducing seats under the proportional representation section from 180 to 150. Sixty of the seats would be preferentially allotted to the political parties ranked second or lower.
Such a preferential seat allotment, many say, would violate the Constitution's guarantee of equality in the value of each vote.

The electoral zoning deemed unconstitutional by the judiciary should not be replaced, as part of electoral reforms, by a different system feared to also be unconstitutional.

Upper house electoral zoning, like that of the lower house, has been ruled to be in an unconstitutional state.
Last November, the Diet revised the Public Offices Election Law to add four seats in populated prefectures and eliminate four seats from less populated prefectures.
The law revision, however, was only a stop-gap measure.

The electoral system not only expresses the will of the public but also serves as the foundation of a smooth political process. The Diet must carry out drastic electoral reforms after studying on how parliamentary duties should be divided between the upper and lower chambers.

If conflicting interests of political parties stand in the way of electoral reform, the only way left is to set up an expert council to get electoral reform under way.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 27, 2013)
(2013年3月27日01時12分  読売新聞)


国連人権調査委 北朝鮮に拉致解決迫るテコだ

2013-03-28 06:19:30 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 27, 2013)
Pile intl pressure on North Korea over human rights violations
国連人権調査委 北朝鮮に拉致解決迫るテコだ(3月26日付・読売社説)

The U.N. Human Rights Council recently unanimously adopted a resolution on establishing a panel to investigate human rights abuse in North Korea.

It is important for the international community to seize this momentum and step up pressure on the reclusive country to improve its human rights conditions, which would pave the way for the swift resolution of North Korea's abduction of Japanese.

The resolution was jointly submitted by Japan and the European Union, and denounced North Korea's "systematic, widespread and grave violation of human rights." It stipulated the establishment of an inquiry panel of three experts to investigate human rights abuse including the use of torture and labor camps, as well as "enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of nationals of other states."

The United Nations has appointed a special rapporteur tasked with investigating North Korea's human rights conditions every year, but establishing the panel will enable a more exhaustive investigation.

The Japanese government should unreservedly support the panel. It must unveil the full picture of the abductions--a crime committed by a state--and bring all the Japanese victims home.


High expectations for panel

The United Nations has adopted resolutions condemning North Korea's human rights situation annually in recent years. Votes cast against the resolutions in support of North Korea have decreased over the years, while votes in favor have increased. Since last year, these resolutions have been adopted unanimously.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution on tougher sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear and missile development programs. Pyongyang has continuously thumbed its nose at international condemnation of the programs. Even China has become more willing to implement sanctions on North Korea.

The North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un must take this mounting international pressure to heart.

North Korea likely will keep refusing to cooperate with U.N. investigations, and will not open its doors to inquiry panel members.

However, the panel can collect detailed evidence from victims, defectors, their relatives, governments and agencies outside North Korea. The panel is expected to compile a report on the state of Pyongyang's human rights violations and specific countermeasures. The report will be issued as an official U.N. document a year from now.

The panel report could firmly pursue the North Korean leadership's responsibility for crimes against humanity. The international community must keep squeezing North Korea until it improves its human rights record.


Little time left for families

The Human Rights Council resolution reflects the Japanese government's strenuous efforts on the abduction issue. We praise the government for its work.

In his policy speech earlier this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his mission will not end until all abducted Japanese stand again on their native soil. Family members of the abductees have grown old, so there is no time to waste. We ask the prime minister to produce tangible results.

The government should develop a strategic and aggressive diplomatic policy toward North Korea, including the option of resuming intergovernmental talks.

Without a comprehensive solution to the abduction, nuclear and missile problems, it will be impossible to normalize relations with North Korea. It is essential for the government to maintain this stance when dealing with Pyongyang.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 26, 2013)
(2013年3月26日01時35分  読売新聞)


公示地価 不動産デフレ脱却へもう一息

2013-03-27 06:35:13 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 26, 2013)
Revitalization of business crucial to escaping real estate deflation
公示地価 不動産デフレ脱却へもう一息(3月25日付・読売社説)

Land prices have been showing stronger signs of bottoming out. To make it possible to restore real estate prices to normal levels and lead the nation out of deflation, the government must accelerate economic revitalization.

Posted land prices as of Jan. 1 this year, which were announced last week by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, dropped 1.6 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, in residential and commercial areas from a year before. This marked year-on-year negative growth for the fifth straight year since the Lehman shock in the autumn of 2008.

However, the bright side is that the margin of decline shrank for three consecutive years. Above all, it may be said that the bottom is in sight in three major metropolitan areas where the margin of decline remained below 1 percent.

The year-on-year fall in the average land price contracted in almost all prefectures. This indicates that the situation is improving in both urban and regional areas.

Funds have been flowing into the real estate market on hopes for the economic revitalization policies put forth by Shinzo Abe before he became prime minister. If this trend continues, it will spur a rebound in land prices.


Signs of recovery

Improvement is conspicuous in residential zones as a result of such policies as low interest rates and tax deductions for people who take out housing loans.

In Tokyo, some areas showed positive growth compared to no change the year before, thanks to brisk sales of condominiums.

It is noteworthy that land prices are coming out of a slump in commercial areas, particularly in metropolitan areas, which tended to lag residential areas in the pace of their recovery.

The number of spots with higher land prices increased in redevelopment areas centering on large-scale commercial facilities such as Tokyo Skytree and areas where there is strong demand for moving to newly built houses and condominiums with advanced earthquake resistance.

Vacancy rates are falling, and the drop in rents is coming to an end.

Investments, mainly from after parts of Asia, seem to be expanding. This is possible because real estate in Japan is considered relatively inexpensive, as the yen has weakened due to monetary easing policies.


A matter of concern

Improvement is slow in regional commercial areas facing structural problems such as shrinking populations and battered economies.

In the areas devastated by the tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, the polarization has weakened between land prices in tsunami-affected coastal areas and in higher areas that escaped being inundated.

But it is worrying that a growing number of areas are showing a sharp rise in land prices as the demand to move expands due to the progress of reconstruction projects.

The residential area in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, marked the biggest rate of increase in land prices for two years in a row. Land prices turned upward across the board in municipalities in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures along the Pacific coast.
Miyagi topped the national list of prefectures in terms of the growth rate in land prices.

The central and local governments concerned should beef up their surveillance to prevent sharp jumps in land prices that will have an adverse effect on housing reconstruction.

Authorities must be cautious regarding the effect on land prices of increased demand ahead of a hike in the consumption tax planned for April.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 25, 2013)
(2013年3月25日01時12分  読売新聞)