Re: A news item and subject which I just want to check out (113) November 17, 2023

The weather has been unseasonable lately. After a succession of so warm days that I would not think it is November, the weather suddenly turned cold. I have spent my days putting on and taking off my coat when going out. But it is going to be really cold from next week or so. Maybe it is because of such unseasonable weather, it seems that the spread of seasonal influenza will not stop. This epidemic is about 3 months earlier than usual and I hear that there is an ongoing shortage of a part of medicines for children’s use. And experts predict that there is a risk of a larger wave of infections when winter comes. In order to prevent infections, they recommend early vaccination, wearing a mask, thorough hand washing, and frequent ventilation.
On the other hand, it seems that the infection of dengue fever has rapidly increased in Asia. The symptoms are sudden fever and headache, and feeling nauseous. Usually, it seems to relieve fever in 2~7 days, but a lot of deaths have occurred overseas. It is considered to be endemic diseases that are predominantly prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions so far, but the infection has been observed in a wide range area including Japan recently against a background of global warming. It seems that mosquitoes transmitting viruses are thriving in extreme weather, leading to the spread of infections.
By the way, I don’t know the reason, but I have frequently seen stink bugs in a place close to me this year. This is the first time in my life. It is stuck on the glass door of my home and sometimes lying at my feet. I have heard the same thing from various persons. I avoided it when it was at my feet, because it sends out a bad smell if I step on it. I wonder if this is a familiar example of climate change.

■■What I have thought recently:
■“Six risks for human beings” published by United Nations University:
The reports took up six risks and urged early action. These are ①unbearable heat wave ②melting of   glaciers ③a future without insurance ④acceleration of species extinction ⑤space debris (space garbage) ⑥depletion of groundwater.
For instance, ①about 500 thousand will be dead every year in the world due to heat wave ②130 million space garbage including up to about 1mm~1cm are drifting rapidly in Earth’s orbit, and if the crash chains, satellites will not be able to be used in Earth’s orbit. And the reports indicate that we tend to focus on measures to slow down the situation in response to such risks at present, but we need a change that solves the root problem. Unfortunately, under present global situation, no country is taking the initiative to solve these issues. It seems to me that as it is, it is the same as “the Titanic” and everyone is heading straight toward the wrong direction despite being aware of the risks.

■A top-level meeting between the United States and China:
The President Xi Jinping in China visited the United States for the first time in six and a half years in order to attend a top-level meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
In accordance with this, a top-level meeting between the United States and China was held in suburbs of San Francisco for the first time in one year. The meeting seemed to be held with great caution, and there did not seem to be an in-depth discussion about the Taiwan Strait, China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea and trade friction, out of consideration for not further worsening the bilateral relations. My impression seemed to be that “meeting each other holds significance in itself”. But I think that the confirmation of the resumption of dialogue between the leaders and top military leaders was a significant achievement.
The current state of the Chinese economy is extremely poor, and it is said that the real GDP growth rate for the July to September quarter was 4.9 % compared to the same period last year, but the reality seems to be much more serious. Therefore, this top-level meeting was something like a timely offer for China, in the meaning of demonstrating the country’s international presence to its citizens. But it is unlikely that China will make concessions on the Taiwan issue and stop the build-up of military bases in the South East Sea in this round of talks. The term of office of the United States President is four years, with the maximum of two terms, and the outcome of the election has the potential to significantly alter policies. However, there are no term limits of the Chinese President. And there are no elections at the national level, and it is a one-party dictatorship of the Communist Party. And the principals established by the Communist Party are absolutely non-negotiable. We need to closely observe what the President Xi Jinping not revealing his emotions other than “a faint smile” on his face whom the President Biden calls “a dictator” is thinking in his heart.

■Imminent “2024 problem” in the trucking industry:
I was a lecturer at an association with the title of “the current state of the logistics industry and 2024 problem” this week. I have another request from another organization next week.
The crux of this issue lies in the application of the regulations called “maximum overtime hours up to 960 hours”. Incidentally, based on “the work style reform-related laws” enacted in 2018, as far as general office work is concerned, “annual maximum overtime hours up to 720 hours” has already been enforced for large corporations since fiscal year 2019 and for small and medium-sized enterprises since fiscal year 2020. But the trucking industry, the construction industry, and health care professionals have been granted a five-year period (preparation period) due to the special nature of their work. The deadline is now four and a half months away.
In Japan, the declining birthrate and aging population are rapidly progressing and at the same time, Japan is turning into a society with declining population. The labor shortage is becoming more serious. According to the Teikoku Databank, the number of bankruptcies caused by labor shortage from January to October this year was 206, a record high, increased by 78 % compared to the previous year, and especially, the construction industry and the logistics industry together account for over 50 %. In particular, micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees account for 75 % of bankruptcies. It shows the reality that small companies with long business history tend to face labor shortages and concerns for business succession.
Well then, why is working hours regulation needed in the midst of a growing labor shortage?
If divided “annual overtime hours 960 hours” simply by 12 months, it is “80 hours” per month. It is said that this is “the critical line for death by overtime” in the society. Especially, truck drivers are the so-called “three K jobs” that “annual working hours are 20 % longer but wages are 10 % lower” compared to the overall industry average. And the reality is that dishonorable records that the number of deaths by overwork is the highest among all industries continue.
This is a major social, humane problem and problem in accident prevention that can no longer be ignored.
By the way, based on the Labor Standard Laws, “penal servitude of up to 6 months or fines of up to 300,000 yen” will be imposed for non-compliance with regulations. Penalties will be further strengthened compared to existing administrative disposition.
On the other hand, if trucks disappear from in front of our eyes in 2~3 days, our life cannot be made up immediately. Definitely, “trucks are the lifeline supporting daily life and the economy”. And in order to fulfil its social responsibilities, the strategy to encourage the participation of young people regardless of gender is absolutely necessary. To do that, the improvement of labor conditions including wages is essential, and “the collection of appropriate fares”, which serves as the underlying resources, is essential. Of course, the trucking industry has to make constant efforts to “improve productivity by structural reform” such as improvement of excessive competition.
In conclusion, I think that “2024 problem” is not appropriate to impose a burden on certain industries and companies, and sharing the burden across society including consumers is necessary.

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