TT-397 -- 500 yen pay rises, ebiz news from Japan

Terrie's Take 397 -- 500 yen pay rises, ebiz news from Japan

General Edition Sunday, October 29, 2006 Issue No. 397

+++ INDEX
- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup
- Upcoming events
- News credits

ADAPT Expat Insurance

How Much of Your Money has Your Health Insurance Company Given Back to You During the Past 4 Years?

ADAPT customers have received total Cash Back averaging
$3,241 each, while enjoying the benefits of full coverage, tailored to their individual needs. You can too.

http://www.expathealthassurance.com
email: support@expathealthassurance.com, Tel. 0120-63-4419

+++ WHAT'S NEW

About five years ago, we wrote about the phenomenon of Japanese bedrock manufacturing companies firing thousands of people. One after another, companies such as Matsushita, Nissan and others broke the bad news to employees aged 50 or over that their days were numbered. Among many others, we were stunned to witness that apparent death of a unique corporate culture that saw protecting the welfare of employees as being more important than making profits.
During that intense 18-month period of lay-offs, only Toyota and a few other cash-rich companies were able to keep the faith.

Of course the mass firings were just the tip of an iceberg's worth of bad news. The fact was that long before people were losing their jobs, the companies involved were all under huge pressure to simply survive. Over the previous few years, they had cut costs to the bone and employee rosters were simply the last straw. For those remaining, base salaries, allowances, bonuses, and all-important overtime were either frozen or cut, and of course as a result nationwide consumer spending dropped dramatically.

Even as recently as 2004, we were still reading news reports that the average salary of a factory worker, before overtime, had a drop in average income of almost 2% over the same period a year earlier.

So it was with great interest that we read in the news this week, that Nippon Steel and JFE Steel have both decided to award their employees pay rises for the first time in 6 years. Not huge raises mind you, just a scant JPY1,500 extra a month for JFE employees, but nevertheless, with corresponding big ramp ups in overtime -- a much more important source of extra cash to the average salaryman -- the result is that regular employees are now starting to enjoy some of the trickle down from the profits that their companies have been making for 2-3 years now.

[Continued below.]

Tokyo Monthly 21

Furnished apartments in Tokyo

Are you planning to visit Tokyo and looking for an apartment for a short trip or an extended stay? We, Tokyo Monthly 21, provide comfortable living at our fully-furnished apartments. Book through us with confidence and rent an apartment for a week, month, or year for your next business or vacation visit.

http://www.furnished-apartment-tokyo.com/

[Article continues]

Perhaps in any other country, if the workers knew that their company had just made a consolidated profit increase of 41%, as Matsushita achieved in Q1 of this year, they would probably be talking about striking rather than meekly accepting the rather paltry JPY500 monthly base salary raise actually offered by the company. But then, with Matsushita hitting the news as being the best company in the country to work for (really), clearly Matsushita has managed to convince its unions that the company needs more economic breathing space before it can start sharing more of the profits with the staff. The message to the workers is, "We're not out of the woods yet."

Perhaps another reason why Matsushita's and other companies' workers are not complaining is because they get most of their windfall benefits from bonuses and overtime, not by base pay increases anyway. The Nippon Keidanren (The Japan Business Federation) announced recently that winter bonuses at major Japanese companies are expected to rise 2.75% to an average of JPY878,071 per worker, an all-time high since statistics were first kept back in 1959. This makes it the second year in a row for record bonuses, and the result is sure to be a strong increase in consumer spending over the coming 6-12 months.

Several other reasons why pay raises are becoming fewer and further between are to do with changing social circumstances. Firstly, the unions appear to be losing their ability to negotiate on an industry-wide basis, as some companies are doing a lot better than others. Just take a look at the recent differences in profit between highly profitable firms such as Canon and Toyota versus profit-challenged ones such as Sony and NEC. Thus, the members of Rengo, the umbrella organization of Japanese trade unions, are finding that they can't go after sector-wide pay rise demands through holding street rallies in Kasumigaseki any more. Instead, they have to engage in cumbersome negotiations on a company-by-company base -- something they really haven't figured out how to do yet.

Secondly, as many as 60% of Japan's major companies are already deep into their restructuring of pay scales, dropping seniority-based pay in favor of merit-based pay.
Merit-based pay is a relatively new phenomenon, really only taking root in the last 5 years in tandem with the wave of lay-offs. Given the origins of merit or performance-based pay, it is only natural that most people have thought of the whole system as a smoke screen to allow companies to cut their labor costs. While there may be an element of truth in that idea, the whole concept of pay for performance has nevertheless just been given a huge shot in the arm by the courts.

On June 22, the Tokyo High Court overruled a lower court decision and allowed a Kanagawa-based electronics
manufacturer to demote a number of employees who couldn't perform to their respective salary levels. The company introduced its merit-based pay system in 2001, and caused a number of people aged between 44 and 53 to lose their management positions as well as to receive a pay drop of up to JPY75,000. We think such court rulings represent a fundamental change in thinking on salaries and pay negotiations. It also sets the foundation for even more radical changes over the next few years, as Japan seeks to find ways to become competitive again.

The Mizuho Research Institute says that the current wage increases, while small, when combined with bonuses and performance pay are expected to be significant enough to stimulate households to consume more. The think tank says that consumer spending may rise by 1% next fiscal year and that employers' wage bills will increase by more than JPY8trn (US$67bn).

While the public's focus is primarily on employee salaries, another mini-revolution is going on in the board room. Many companies pay their directors a flat monthly or yearly fee, regardless of whether they ever show up to board meetings or not. Recently, however, companies are looking to their boards to take on more responsiblity -- particularly the executive directors. Namco Bandai Holdings just recently introduced stock options for their executive directors, to directly connect their wealth to the results of the company. The 8 internal directors will each receive around 2,100 shares, worth about JPY32.5m, and at the same time take a 20% decrease in base salary.

We suspect that if more companies used this kind of system for their top people, overall company results would improve considerably. Pay-for-performance is still a radical idea in Japan, but it is an idea whose time has come.

...The information janitors/

DENPHONE Full-featured Office PBX

Business Telephony Solutions and PBXs Denphone is a leading corporate provider of business telephony solutions including PBXs, telephones, call centers, CTI/IVR automated voice menu systems, call recording and voicemail. See how our office telephony systems and hosted solutions are lower cost while feature filled.

Call us to find out more. http://www.denphone.com Tel: 03-5545-4638

+++ NEWS

- Battery recall hurts Sony
- Recovering trace gold from sea water
- IBM Japan combines 6 firms into one
- Japan online ad spending strong
- Aozora IPO likely to be biggest for 2006

-> Battery recall hurts Sony

The global recall of 9.6m lithium-ion batteries, coupled with losses from the video game business, has severely reduced Sony's profits in Q2 of this year. The group's net profit for July-September plummeted 94% to just JPY1.7bn (US$14.4m), down from JPY28.5bn (US$241m) for the same quarter in 2005. Apparently the battery recall will cost Sony about JPY51bn (US$432m), more than double the original estimate when the Dell-related recall of 6m batteries was announced. ***Ed: As we've already mentioned, this is also before any class action or personal injury lawsuits.**
(Source: TT commentary from newsday.com, Oct 26, 2006)

http://tinyurl.com/y6lgwk

->Recovering trace gold from sea water

Almost smacking of alchemy, a Kyoto University research group has created a nano-compound which can recover even trace amounts of gold from solutions used in the recovery of precious metals from old electronics circuit boards. The compound is apparently extremely efficient and can recover gold in solution with a concentration of just one part per billion. Perhaps most interestingly, the research team head said that they can also use the compound to extract trace gold from ordinary sea water! ***Ed: Now, that, we'd like to see.** (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Oct 26,
2006)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20061025D25JSN02.htm

->IBM Japan combines 6 firms into one
In what appears to be a major shake-up so as to address the burgeoning financial sector, IBM Japan has decided to combine from next year 6 of its subsidiary companies into a new firm. The 6 firms are to be combined by January 1st, 2007, and will include the IBM Japan Advanced Solutions Company, IBM Global Services Japan Central Solutions Company. The new firm will have about 2,300 employees, and sales of around JPY60bn (US$508m). (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Oct 26, 2006)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20061026D26HH715.htm

->Japan online ad spending strong

The Nielsen/NetRatings service has announced that its AdRelevance online advertising measurement service is now available in Japan. The service has collated data for September 2006, showing that there were 1,254 advertisers running 3,000 online display advertising campaigns, consisting of almost 6,500 banners. The advertisers spent about JPY19.2bn (US$160m) to create about 29.5bn ad impressions. The ad spend in Japan is now around 20% that of the USA and 300% more than spent in China. (Source: TT commentary from multilingual-search.com, Oct 26, 2006)

http://www.netratings.com/pr/pr_061016_japan.pdf

-> Aozora IPO likely to be biggest for 2006

Aozora Bank, formerly the Nippon Credit Bank and subsequently bought out and restructured by US Private Equity fund Cerberus Partners, will list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on November 14th. The company is expected to be valued at JPY406.63bn (US$3.44bn) and thus will be the largest IPO in Japan for 2006. In fact, it will be the biggest IPO since the 1998 offering by NTT DoCoMo. (Source:
TT commentary from marketwatch.com, Oct 25, 2006)

http://tinyurl.com/v8akr

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources are now removing their articles after just a few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.

You're Vending What?

Japan is home to the highest density of vending machines in the world, with about 5.6m machines, or one for every 23 people. You can buy almost anything, and the Japanese do, with about JPY6.67trn (US$56bn) being spent every year.

Yet, apart from the obvious players such as major soft drinks companies, there have been no foreign owners of this massive direct sales medium - until now.

Market Pioneer Japan is proud to announce that as of October, 2006, it has built a network of 1,000 vending machines placed nationwide, selling stickers and print logos. We invite owners of licenceable characters to contact us with a view to distributing your IP assets into the Japanese market.

Web: www.japaninc.com/mpj, email: mpj@japaninc.com

+++ CANDIDATE ROUND UP/VACANCIES

LINC Media BiOS has immediate positions available for bilingual engineers and sales staff in the systems integration and software industries.

=> Windows Server Administrators
(to work in Osaka following initial training in Tokyo)

Responsibilities include:
* Technical server support
* System application monitoring and capacity planning
* Provide cross training to other engineers
* Train on new platforms as required.
* Solve systems/application outages and networking issues
* Business Analysis (liaise between architects, apps team)
* Project planning and delivery
* Create installation documentation & training materials

Qualifications Required
* Position open to bilingual engineers
* Must be flexible, able to work as part of team
* Experience working in a large-size IT environment
* Communication in spoken and written English
* Ability to converse in Japanese with vendors
* 3-4 years of experience as Windows System Server Admin.
* Knowledge of HP/Dell server hardware
* Demonstrate thorough understanding of system implementation lifecycle (SILC) and change control process
* Experience in server patching
* Basic scripting skills or programming/coding experience
* Experience with Voice-related equipment
(Nice/Avaya/PBX/Ultra)
* Certified training a plus - (MCP, MSCA, MCSE, CCNA)

For more information or to submit your resume, please email jobs@biosjp.com

-----------------------------------------------------

Corporate Translation

Does your translator have 15 years' experience?
Professional translator Michael House does. Michael House can take your Japanese documents and translate them into clear, concise and accurate English. With special expertise in the IT, business and insurance sectors, Michael's 15 years' translating means you get top quality.

Why go through an agent when you can go direct?

Email Michael now for competitive rates and dates.

Email: macross@gol.com

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Entrepreneur Assoc. of Tokyo Events

Speaker: Atsuko Morimoto, Founder of AM Associates Presentation Title: "Learning from Innovative Marketers"

In EA-Tokyo's upcoming seminar, Morimoto-san will be sharing her insights into successful marketing tactics taken by several successful Japanese companies she has worked with. Her company, AM Associates is a consulting company specialized in Marketing & Communications. It offers services in IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications), including Acquisition, Customer Relationship & Loyalty Marketing and Branding.

Current clients are skin-care and publishing companies.
Date/Time: November 1st 7:00 pm
Location: City Club of Tokyo - Maple Room (Canadian Embassy)
Language: English

Website: http://www.ea-tokyo.com
Email: info@ea-tokyo.com

Tokyo Career Fair 2006

Tokyo Career Fair 2006, November 1, 5.30 - 8.40 pm

Tokyo Career Fair 2006 is an exciting, evening career event offering mid career candidates informative seminars and the chance to meet with quality companies.
Registration is now open and limited to 300 people.

Full details and pre-registration at:
http://www.tokyocareerfair.com

IT events announcements are priced at JPY50,000 per week.
For more information, contact sales@japaninc.com

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

-> TT 394. We covered the fundamental change of the
Japanese government in connection to the raising of taxes, and how PM Abe is planning to pump private industry by reducing corporate taxes, in an effort to improve the overall tax take.

*** Reader response
This Adam (Abe) Smith piece is a gem, which should be remembered as being representative of your achievements in contributing to the understanding of Japan -- with your advice as an "outsider within".

*** We respond
Indeed, after 23 years, we think we qualify as the outsider inside. Re the actual column, this tax position by Abe and Co. is such a radical difference on the whole subject of tax that we are surprised that the Japanese media haven't made more of a fuss about it.

...The information janitors/
>>>>--------------------------------------------------<

Logistics: The So-Fast Corporation

Seeing is believing: see our company in action

So Fast Corporation, an innovative logistics company, is offering tours of its Heiwajima warehouse.
See why 8 of 10 foreign company presidents choose So Fast after a visit. Read in the autumn issue of J@pan Inc Magazine why SNOVA Corporation selected So Fast and are glad they did.

For details or appointment, contact Katsuhiko Kakuchiyama.
Phone: 03-5753-3101
Email: k.kakuchi@so-fast.co.jp

Logistics warehouse Dates:
Sep 1 - Oct 31
Time: 8:45a.m. - noon

http://www.so-fast.co.jp/en/index.html

END

SUBSCRIBERS: 24,959 as of October 29, 2006
(We purge our list regularly.)

+++ ABOUT US
back
STAFF
Written by: Terrie Lloydterrie.lloyd@japaninc.com.

HELP: E-mail Terrie-request@mailman.lincmedia.co.jp
with the word 'help' in the subject or body (dont include the quotes), and you will get back a message with instructions.

FEEDBACK
Send letters (Feedback, Inquiries & Information) to the editor to editors@terrie.com.

ADVERTISING INFORMATION
For more information on advertising in this newsletter, contact ads@japaninc.com.

SUSCRIBE
Get Terrie's Take by giving your name and email address athttp://www.terrie.com/subscribe.html.
BACK ISSUES
http://mailman.lincmedia.co.jp/pipermail/terrie/.

Copyright 2006 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.

_______________Japan Inc is worth every penny!_______________

Don't forget you can get deeper analysis on Japan's hottest new businesses and technology from the quarterly edition of J@pan Inc. 1-year subscription for JPY3,600(Japan). It's so cost effective you can even get your company to pay for it!
Go to: www.japaninc.net/mag/subs.html for details.

Newsletter:

business