Re: My visit to the United States for the first time in four years ~Part 2 (93) June 2, 2023

According to Japanese Trade Union Confederation, the average rate of wage increase of full-time employees in the annual wage talks this year was 3.67 % as of May 8, and significantly increased by 1.57 % from the previous year. It is the first time in 30 years since 1993 that it becomes in the second half of 3 %. In 1993, the final tally was 3.90 %. The average rate of wage increase of non-fulltime workers was 5.55 % at the base hourly rate and more than double the level of previous year.
The stagnation of wages in Japan is striking compared to other advanced countries. According to OECD research, the growth rate of average wage in Japan from 1990 to 2021 remained at 6.3 %, significantly lagging behind 53.2 % in the United States and 50.4 % in the United Kingdom.
The focus from now on is the sustainability of the wage increase trend and improvement of working conditions in small and medium-sized enterprises that account for 70 % of all workers and improvement of working conditions of non-fulltime workers.
■The next presidential elections in November 2024:
Most of my friends and acquaintances I met this time were Republicans, and I asked them about their views on the move of Mr. Trump aged 76 toward running for re-election. As a result, most people said “they support the Republican Party but don’t support Mr. Trump”. The percentage of Republicans who support Mr. Trump no matter what is down to about 15 % now from previously 40 %, and I was told that this group is appropriately called as “Trump party” rather than the Republican Party now. And even if Mr. Trump is elected as the presidential candidate within the Republican Party, he will not be able to beat Mr. Biden aged 80, who has announced his re-election from the Democratic Party. However, if a person other than Mr. Trump, for instance Mr. DeSantis present governor of Florida aged 44 who is running for the election, is elected as the presidential candidate within the Republican Party, Mr. Biden will not win. I heard the following reasons. ① he is old ② the first black women vice President Mrs. Harris who automatically takes over the duties, if something happens to the President is unpopular ③ recession is inevitable with persistent inflation control. On the other hand, Mr. Trump is desperate, because the only way for him to avoid prosecution is to win the presidential election.
■Mr. DeSantis who announced his candidacy for president the other day:
He is a former naval man and has a lot of political experience. His political philosophy is considered conservative and hard-liner. It is said that he is not as tolerant of supporting Ukraine as the current administration, and tough on immigration issues, and not proactive about environmental issues. His policy being unclear should be seen as a risk factor for Japan.
An urgent issue is to communicate not only at the government level but also at the private level and deepen mutual understanding, because in the State of Florida where he is the current governor, no noticeable Japanese companies enter the market and it is not familiar to Japanese people. I think that “grassroots private diplomacy” plays a very important role regardless of target country or region from the experience of serving as an Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Bhutan in Osaka for 11 years until two years ago. At the same time, Japan should not rely on the United States but should have independence. To do that, it is necessary to strengthen national power. The source of national power is economic power, and in order for Japan without resources in particular to survive, it is necessary to “reform awareness” of the people, and to advance “institutional reform” and “structural reform”, and “strengthening of advanced technology development capabilities” is also necessary and above all, we need to “develop human resources” to support it.
■Trends of inflation in the United States:
The inflation that is the biggest concern in the United States now is mainly caused by a labor shortage. Therefore, it is not easy to keep inflation under control. I had visited the United States once or twice every year before corona problem occurred. And I have always paid attention to gasoline prices and the price of hamburgers in Los Angeles. Gasoline prices, the biggest concern for Americans in a car society, fluctuate depending on oil price trends. However, the hamburger which is the most familiar to Americans shows the rising price, in other words, the present situation of inflation in the United States. I have been to the same hamburger shop since a long time ago when I visited Los Angeles, and have observed price changes at a fixed point.
When looking at it, from 3.30 dollars in 2014 to 3.90 dollars in 2018 increased by 18 % in 4 years, and 4.35 dollars in 2019 increased by 12 % compared to the previous year, and 5.15 dollars in 2023 increased by 18 % in 4 years. But the price of milk has leveled out for the last 10 years. There may be government subsidies. There are interesting points when analyzing various things.
By the way, when I visited the shop this time, there was 19 dollars, if you convert one dollar into 140 yen, it is 2,660 yen, per hour sticker on the door. Labor costs are rising steadily due to labor shortages.
■Tipping system in the United States:
In the United States, a representative has been considered a grown-up if he is able to know how to pay the tips depending on the situation. I heard from a Japanese person before that “Japan is good because it does not have a tipping culture”. Isn’t that so? It is true that there is no custom of paying tips for most services in Japan. However, in the United States tipping is a must in taxi, for the doorman, in restaurants and so on. When I got off the car or left my seat, I used to pay a tip about 10 % of the price in cash. In the United States, the basic salary or fixed salary is kept low for the job types mentioned earlier. I can interpret that people who work at these jobs were given opportunities to get tips. Therefore, they try to serve as hard as they can, and try to get as many tips as they can by making a good impression. In other words, customers rate their services. However, in Japan good or bad service does not make a difference in ratings in most cases. In Japan, we believe that service is free or included in the price, and in the United States, the idea is that “the service requires a fee”. In Japan, the service industry faces the problem of low productivity as labor shortages worsen, and we should learn the American way and change our mindset that we “need to pay for good service”.
By the way, when I get out of a taxi, a 10 %, or 20 %, or 30 % tip is shown along with the fee, and the tip is chosen by the customer. When you do so, the total amount is displayed. After you insert your credit card, you input PIN code, personal identification number code, and push the green button and then the transaction is completed. GO Pay is growing rapidly in Japan, and digitalization is the same for both Japan and the United States, but the only difference is presence or absence of tip items.

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