Re: A news item and subject which I just want to check out (87) April 7, 2023

 The Spring National Invitational High School Baseball Tournament has finished, and the cherry blossoms that used to bloom in the midst of spring are now leaf cherry blossoms in Kansai. The cherry blossom front is moving northward and has already reached the Tohoku region. I remembered beautiful weeping cherry which I saw at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori Prefecture and Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture where I used to visit.
Professional baseball began in Japan at the same time as the start of the U.S. Major League Baseball season last week. And in regards to professional golf, Masters Tournament, the first major tournament of the year, is held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on Thursday this week. The long corona disaster is almost over and sports season has finally arrived. There is prolonged situation in Ukraine, inflation and unpredictable political and economic situation in the United States that must be the world leader, but I want sports to “stimulate” the economy at least.

■■A lot of things happened this week.
■Former President Trump was prosecuted:
Former President Trump who was prosecuted by grand jury in New York faced a plea at a New York court and denied all charges against him as expected on April 4. The trial is expected to be prolonged, and there is a lot of interest in what the impact on the next presidential election in autumn next year will be. But even if he is found guilty, I hear that criminal record does not get in the way of presidential elections in the U.S. constitution. I do not know what the legislation will be in Japan, but it is not common sense.
Mr. Trump’s presidential election slogan is MAGA, Make America Great Again. With this time, his approval ratings seem to be still higher than other leading candidates within the Republican Party. But even if he is nominated as a presidential candidate within the Republican Party, it is very difficult for him to win the main event against the entire nation.
In last year’s midterm elections, the Republican Party had expected to have overwhelming victory in both houses of Congress according to rumor, but the Democratic Party won the Senate actually. It can be said that the common sense of “defending the American democracy” finally worked.
Anyway, why does someone like Mr. Trump have an enthusiastic substantial number of supporters? This is because of the complexity and diversity of the United States or reflection of a divided society after all. The biggest problem is widening inequality. According to the world inequality database, the percentage of top 10% high-income groups in the United States in national income rose from 38% in 1989 to 45% in 2019. On the other hand, bottom 50% decreases from 17% to 13%. And according to OECD, Gini coefficient representing income inequality in the United States as of 2018 is 0.39 and it is the most serious. Incidentally, the United Kingdom is 0.37 and Japan is 0.33. In addition, there is persistent racial discrimination and protectionism. Anyway, it is a big risk for a theater-type and haphazard figure and a person with unpredictable and arbitrary behavior like Mr. Trump to run the world. True intentions of Western countries are as if to say that “just don’t do that” and they are in great fear. The only exceptional person who is secretly expecting for Mr. Trump’s return to the presidency must be Mr. Putin.

■2024 problem for logistics industry and truck drivers:
This problem has been making headlines lately and is also taken up in Diet deliberations. The background is that 960 hours per year overtime work upper limit regulation will apply to truck drivers from April 2024 by “the work style reform law”, and “the amendment of notification of improvement criteria” in which rules of operation were stricter than they are now. The ratio of jobs to applicants of truck drivers in January this year is 2.59times and the uptrend is continuing. And at the same time, the population is aging. As it is, there is a concern that it will interfere with trucking capacity.

If I focus on reduction of working hours, operator’s response to this problem is as follows.
① “Rethinking fundamentally the way of work and increasing productivity and trying to reduce the hours”  ② “Increasing the number of drivers” 
③ “Reducing workload up to a level that meets working hour regulations” in order to ensure compliance  ④ “Making use of subcontracting and partner companies”, and so on.
By the way, in order to improve wages and working conditions, the receipt of “appropriate fares” is the most important, and the top priority predicting the success or failure of “work style reform”. However, the reality is that there are many operators who are struggling in order to pass on the cost increase such as soaring fuel costs to the fare.
On the other hand, true intentions of drivers’ side are that “reduced working hours is O.K. but we don’t want our income to decrease”. It is natural that they think they want to maintain their income and to increase it, if possible, somehow in the midst of ongoing inflation and the high cost of living, in order to support their family and maintain their standard of living. If operators can’t give a clear answer to this point, there is a concern as follows. ①Being increasingly difficult to attract young people ②Drivers, especially middle-aged and elderly drivers change jobs, or have second jobs and side jobs heading for lifting the ban and the relaxation, or turn into gig workers. ③Flowing to black companies that don’t comply with working hour regulations, and so on. Therefore, in the industry where small and medium-sized operators account for the vast majority, except for large business operators, it is necessary to monitor whether it leads to total reduced working hours of individual driver and improvement of wages and other working conditions which are the original intents of the amendment.

≪P.S.≫ Kuraray Co., Ltd. publishes survey results about professions first grade elementary school students want to get in April every year. According to this year’s survey results, boys want to be ①police officer ②athlete ③fire brigade and rescue squad. And girls want to be ①cake shop and bakery ②celebrity, singer and model ③florist.
If I compare this to a survey done six years ago, boys wanted to be ①athlete ②police officer ③motorman and driver. On the other hand, girls wanted to be ①cake shop and bakery ②celebrity, singer and model ③nurse.
In case of boys, “police officer and athlete” are always first and second, and in case of girls “cake shop and bakery, celebrity, singer and model” are always first and second. I feel that boys seek “coolness” and girls “chase cuteness and dreams”. I want them to cherish their childhood dreams forever.

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