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From The Asian Reporter, V33, #4 (April 3, 2023), page 2.

Japan unveils proposal to promote marriage, raise birthrate

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese cabinet minister in charge of tackling the country’s declining birthrate has unveiled a draft proposal aimed at reversing the downtrend, including increased subsidies for childrearing and education and a salary increase for younger workers to incentivize marrying and having kids. Japan’s population of more than 125 million has been declining for 15 years and is projected to fall to 86.7 million by 2060. A shrinking and aging population has huge implications for the economy and for national security as the country fortifies its military to counter China’s increasingly assertive territorial ambitions. Children’s Policies minister Masanobu Ogura said the next few years are possibly "a last chance" for Japan to reverse its declining births. If the number of births keeps falling at the rate since the beginning of 2000, the young population will shrink at twice the current pace in the 2030s, he said. Many younger Japanese have balked at marrying or having families, discouraged by bleak job prospects, corporate cultures incompatible with having both parents — but especially women — work, and the lack of public tolerance for small children. In 2022, Japan had 799,728 newborns, a record low, falling below 800,000 for the first time since surveys began in 1899. Many couples are hesitating to add to their families because of rising costs. Japan is the world’s third biggest economy but living costs are high, wage increases have been slow, and about 40% of Japanese are part-time or contract workers. Critics say the government has lagged in making society more inclusive for children, women, and minorities. The majority of Japanese between the ages of 18 and 34 say they hope to marry at some point but plan to have fewer than two children. A growing percentage say they have no intention of getting married, according to data cited in the proposal.

China e-commerce giant Alibaba outlines future strategy

HONG KONG (AP) — Alibaba plans to spin off some of its sprawling e-commerce and finance empire as independent businesses to make them more flexible and maximize their value, its top executives said late last month, as the company emerges from regulatory crackdowns that rattled Chinese tech industries. Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang outlined details of a plan to split Alibaba into six main groups as a prelude toward stock listings of some of its companies. The restructuring marks a new stage in Alibaba’s growth after a series of setbacks as regulators tightened oversight of the industry. Alibaba, whose headquarters is in the eastern city of Hangzhou, will be "in the nature of a holding company that is the controlling shareholder of the business group companies," Zhang said in a conference call. Alibaba’s CFO, Toby Xu, said the company would continue to evaluate the strategic importance of group companies after they go public and decide whether or not to retain control. He declined to say when they might go public. "We believe the market is the best litmus test, so each business group company can pursue independent fundraising and IPOs as and when they are ready," Xu said. The plan, and the recent return of Alibaba founder Jack Ma to China after months abroad appear to mark a turnaround after several hard years. Chinese regulators singled out Alibaba for scrutiny in a crackdown on technology and internet companies, putting the brakes on a planned initial public offering in 2020 of Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group. Ant had been set to raise $34.5 billion in what would have been the world’s largest share offering at the time. Alibaba was later investigated and fined $2.8 billion for breaching antitrust rules as Chinese authorities cracked down on the once-freewheeling technology industry.

Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto dies at 71

TOKYO (AP) — Ryuichi Sakamoto, a world-renowned Japanese musician and actor who composed for Hollywood hits such as The Last Emperor and The Revenant, has died. He was 71. Japan’s recording company Avex said in a statement over the weekend that Sakamoto died on March 28 while undergoing treatment for cancer. He was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. In 2022, he revealed he had terminal cancer, a year after he disclosed suffering from rectal cancer. Sakamoto was a pioneer of the electronics music of the late 1970s and founded the Yellow Magic Orchestra, also known as YMO, with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi. Takahashi died in January. Despite his battle with cancer, Sakamoto released a full-length album, 12, on his 71st birthday in January, stating that composing had a "small healing effect on my damaged body and soul," according to an official statement released with the latest album.

Greenland to stay in daylight saving time forever

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Residents of Greenland have switched to daylight saving time and moved their clocks one hour forward for the very last time. Unlike most of Europe, Greenlanders will leave their clocks untouched come autumn when daylight saving time ends. While Europe and the U.S. debate whether to stick to the twice-yearly practice, Greenland — a vast Danish semi-independent territory in the Arctic — has resolved to perennially remain only 3 hours behind Copenhagen and most other European countries instead of 4. Greenland’s parliament, Inatsisartut, voted in November to stick to daylight saving time year-round. Officials say it will give Greenlanders another hour of daylight in the afternoons and more time to do business with Europe and farther afield. "The shift of time zone marks an exciting new beginning, an equal connection to North America and Europe, and an opportunity to slow down in a fast-paced world," Visit Greenland, the local government’s tourism office, said in a statement. Geographically, sparsely populated Greenland belongs to the North American continent but geopolitically, it is in Europe. Greenland is part of the Danish Realm and its southernmost tip is nearly 2,000 miles west of Copenhagen. Its 56,000 people are mainly Inuit, indigenous people who chiefly live on the west coast in small towns and hamlets or remote coastal settlements.

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