[News] News From Other Places!

It's news you can use from places with different views! (Don't misuse or abuse you yahoos.)

Have you read this Guardian article about how housing was formerly (and probably still is to a large degree) viewed as an asset to be knocked down and rebuilt as a new family moves in?

I would also like to hear from those onshore there as to how they perceive things. I only spent a week on holiday there in 2019 and women only train carriages should speak for themselves as to how bad the train molesting (an extension of the toxic masculinity) is in Japan.

It's definitely ahead of a lot of Asian countries from what I've seen in my travels but the infrastructure hasn't aged that well. For example, trying to navigate around Tokyo on the metro was a nightmare of multiple stations with no clear connections. I'm sure this is a byproduct of the private network system they had over time and in comparison the ability to transit from different rail networks within a single concourse is something I appreciate we have in Sydney. However our city has 6m vs 25m+ in greater Tokyo, so there's that.

Chinese population decline? Uh, that sounds like a good thing. Problematic for the economy of course, but maybe they should start saving for it now then.

In the late 1980s, Japanese people were richer than Americans. Now they earn less than Britons.

Earning less than Britons? Ouch, that must sting. I dont think they have to worry too much, Britain will catch up in the race to the bottom.

I’ll have to be short, on the phone.

Japan’s public transportation is way ahead of Australia. In terms of coverage, reliability, frequency. Of course, it’s not a fair comparison as Australia has to cover wider areas with less dense populations and less public funds to pay for it all. Also, the Australian car culture means that there isn’t the widespread public pressure to improve things.

Property is a weird one. There is a culture that everyone wants a newly built place. Apartments lose 30% of their value the first day someone moves in and they don’t tend to appreciate over time. I think this is changing as the number of temporary workers is increasing and they just can’t afford new. On the other hand, if you are happy to buy secondhand, Japan is easily one of the most affordable countries to buy property. To get the equivalent to my current place in either Melbourne or Sydney would be at least 3-4x. Add in a home loan rate of 1-1.5% and a government incentive which awards you 1% of the value of the home loan back per year as a kind of tax incentive, Australia can’t compete. And that’s with Australian salaries being double what you might get in Japan. Just in addition, the public healthcare is not bad at all, it’s pretty much a flat 70% on everything, additional rebates if your annual expenses (you and any dependents) are over about $1000. And the base prices are generally cheaper than AU. So you would only consider private health insurance if you had special circumstances.

Basically the three of us live reasonably comfortably on just my low-mid salary with no car (which we don’t need) in an apartment more than half paid off that I frankly find luxurious but I think for my wife is just fine.

Back to the original post. Japan is an odd one, compared to its peers I guess. There’s a kind of societal, economic momentum, not sure how else to describe it. Things just tend to be very stable, the government makes conservative decisions, people don’t like big changes. The negative is that when other countries are experiencing explosive economic growth and societal change, Japan appears stagnant and boring. On the other hand, when there is a catastrophic global event like the pandemic, Japan just motors on, affected but nowhere near to the level of hardship that most other places experience. Is this sustainable? Probably not in the long term.

Japan has an aging population and that will be a continuing problem. There are a few counterbalances to this. The government bumps the proportion of salary that workers/companies pay into the pension system at least once a year to keep the system funded. The generally better health of people allows them to work later in life. The government also offers incentives to delay your pension until up to 75 (instead of taking it at 65) and get significantly better payouts. Compared to its neighbor South Korea, Japan’s low birth rate doesn’t seem so bad.

So what is to be done? Obviously more government support for low income and single parent families. More incentives for child births. But the big one is immigration. Especially with regard to refugees. Japan is currently failing to meet its obligations to take in refugees. Japan’s intake is pitiful compared to probably any country you can name. In addition, Japan’s skilled migrant program is corrupt and needs to be overhauled. Companies are bringing over workers, mistreating them and basically taking advantage of the system. In most cases, workers cannot even bring their families. Anyway, the current immigration intake could probably be increased 10x or more and it still wouldn’t be enough to stabilize the population. But it would be a start.

In terms of infrastructure, Japan has excess transportation capacity, a glut of vacant housing (related to the undesirability of secondhand housing along with the declining population), and schools in need of students to stay open.

Oh don't get me wrong, Australian public transport can definitely be criticized but the ability to transit, at least in Sydney, amongst rail lines is pretty easy. Contrast that to Tokyo's metro where we once exited a station, walked around in circles in confusion with Apple Maps / Google Maps to find another subway entry a couple of hundred metres down the street with no clear signage or wandered around vaguely trying to spot a station entry. Generally however Japan signage and metro were usually easy and convenient...unless you were lugging a huge suitcase in which case good luck finding a lift or escalator at every station.

There was an article recently how Japan was finally abandoning floppy disks. I have no idea how they fit anything on them in the modern era where PDFs often exceeded 2MB but yeah what a surprise. They also apparently love their fax machines. I keep a fax number as a law firm but heck the last time I actually used it was years ago; once the government enacted laws to permit emails as an accepted form of giving written notice, everyone here sighed in relief.

No idea about the floppy disks. I haven’t seen a floppy disk the entire time I’ve been here (since ‘06). Sounds like someone needed to get an article out. Most work machines even have their usb slots locked down.

My company finally gave up faxes around 5 years ago. We still heavily make use of CDs and DVDs. So there is that.

When I moved to Melbourne I was super impressed with the train system. But it notably deteriorated in reliability during the time I was there (related to being privatized) and it’s only gotten worse if my FB feed can be believed.

Apparently the floppy disk use is a government thing

Japan decides it's time to stop using floppy disks, report says

The government attempted to start phasing out floppy disks last year, a decade after Sony stopped producing them. Tokyo's city government started opting for online storage formats last year.

The article says floppy disks AND CDs so I would have to really question what level of usage we are talking about for these floppy disks. As Bfgp mentioned, there's literally almost nothing you could practically store on one.

This one specifically says floppies: The Japanese government is still trying to phase out floppy disks a decade after Sony stopped making them

Local officials in Tokyo had clung on to the floppy, as it was ultra-reliable.

The disks "almost never broke and lost data," Yoichi Ono, who is in charge of managing public funds for Meguro ward, told the Nikkei.

2021, so maybe they’ve been phased out by now.

What data I would ask if I was the writer :p.

Mr GT Chris wrote:

What data I would ask if I was the writer :p.

Windows 3.1.

We still have Windows 7 machines that have been in use here longer than me so I can’t pretend that might not be the case ;).

Having ridden both Australian and Japanese trains, I can offer that the longest delays I ever experienced in each country were roughly the same length (~4 hours). So by that measure the two train systems are equivalent.

(Possible sampling bias: I've ridden Japanese trains daily for decades, and I've ridden Australian trains twice.)

Even when I was a student I was familiar with disappearing train syndrome. There was a train scheduled to arrive but who knows what happened to it. Which kind of sucks when trains were only once an hour on my line! Too bad about those lectures :p.

‘The last generation’: the young Chinese people vowing not to have children

Talk to any young woman in urban China about the prospects of having children and the chances are, they are not keen.

“It costs too much to give kids a decent life. The stuff they teach at school is propaganda, so I’d want to send them to an international school or abroad. But I can’t afford that,” said Kongkong, a 26-year-old researcher who swears she will not have children.

This week, the Chinese government announced the country has entered an “era of negative population growth”, after figures showed a historic drop in the number of people for the first time since the great famine between 1958 and 1961. The population fell by 850,000 to 1.41 billion people in 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Alarmed by the country’s increasingly low total fertility rate, Chinese demographers campaigned to scrap the one-child policy for more than a decade, before the government finally ended it in 2015. But by that time, it was too late to reverse the trend.

Since the 1990s, China’s total fertility rate – the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime – has declined to below the replacement level of 2.1. The figure was 1.30 in 2020 and fell to 1.15 in 2021.

Fearing the adverse effects of an ageing population coupled with a shortage of working-age people, the Chinese government allowed couples to have two children in 2015 and further eased the birth limit to three in 2021.

For years, studies have found the rising costs of bringing up children and the lack of welfare provisions to be the main reasons behind China’s low fertility rate. In recent years, the government has begun to offer incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies for childcare and longer parental leave while discouraging abortions. An academic even controversially suggested that social welfare and pensions should be linked to the number of children people have. But these measures have failed to trigger a baby boom.

Shockingly enough that’s now less than Japan, 1.30 in 2021. South Korea still “winning” with .81.


Lavrov visit to South Africa: Pandor defends joint Russia-China military exercise

outh Africa has defended its decision to hold a joint military exercise with Russia and China next month.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor condemned the "double-standard" which says some countries can perform such exercises but others are not.

"All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide," Dr Pandor added.

The comments came at a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pretoria.

The event attracted a small group of protesters outside the venue, waiving Ukrainian flags.

Dr Pandor went on to slam the suggestion that South Africa cannot conduct the military exercises it wants to as an "abuse of international practice".

"This is just a natural set of exercises that occur between countries," she said.

Last week South Africa's military announced it would hold joint naval drills with Russia and China off its coast next month.

But there has been some criticism that the exercise is not appropriate, given that it coincides with the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Not much information has been given about the exercises, but the state-owned Tass news agency reports that a Russian warship armed with hypersonic cruise weapons will take part.

The Ministry of Defence has also defended the planned drills, saying that South Africa has in the past hosted similar exercises with France, the US and countries from the Western Nato military alliance.

The drills will run for 10 days from 17 February to 27 February in the port city of Durban, and Richards Bay.

The aim is to share operational skills and knowledge, the South African National Defence Force said.

Despite pressure from Western countries to condemn the Russian invasion, South Africa has remained neutral - to the disappointment of Ukraine.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Lavrov said he appreciated the "well balanced" and "considerate" approach of South Africa to the Ukraine war, which South Africa's Dr Pandor said must be resolved diplomatically and through negotiation.

Officials in South Africa have repeatedly said they do not condone the invasion but will not be forced into choosing sides and are continuing to engage with both countries in a business-as-usual manner.

Critics of South Africa's stance have accused the country of playing coy.

South Africa's leaders have a connection to Russian dating back to the fight against white-minority rule, or apartheid, when some members of the country's liberation movement received military training in Russia.

In recent years that relationship has grown into business ties through the Brics bloc of emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Mr Lavrov was also in Africa in July 2022, when he visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville, and South Africa is not alone in refusing to take sides in the war in Ukraine.

Many African nations - including Nigeria and Kenya, the economic powerhouses of West and East Africa respectively - voted in favour of a UN general assembly resolution in March last year, condemning Russian "aggression" and demanding its withdrawal from Ukraine.

However, nearly half of all abstentions - 17 - were from Africa, including South Africa.

Clickbait-ass title, but good piece: