The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As businesspeople, in our quest to keep current with the rapidly shifting corporate landscape, we are bombarded by facts, figures, trend reports, and even hashtags. Separating the wheat from the chaff is a constant struggle.

In October 2013, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan invited three experts to discuss the observations and metrics they felt were most relevant to Japan now and in the future. The event, “Now You Know Your ABCs—Panel Commentary with Jesper Koll, Dave McCaughan, and Bill Hall,” proved very popular.

This year’s sell-out sequel, “Now You Know Your DEFs,” was held at the Roppongi Hills Club on February 20. The agenda was fast-moving and wide in scope, followed by an interactive Q&A session. Here are the highlights.

D for dementia
Bill Hall, managing director of IPSOS Japan and an expert on healthcare trends and aging societies, shared the results of an eye-opening study.

The report shows that, by 2025, 13 million people in Japan over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer’s or some form of mild cognitive impairment. Hall said this would have far-reaching effects on service businesses, such as consumer banking and food retailing, where the impaired may struggle to accomplish basic tasks.

In 2012, the Japanese government introduced its “Five-Year Plan for Promotion of Measures against Dementia (Orange Plan),” with the goal of training eight million people on how to effectively aid Alzheimer’s sufferers in their daily lives.

E for energetic
Dave McCaughan, a Hong Kong-based brand consultant, discussed a separate study assessing current attitudes of different age groups in Japan. Many groups—unsurprisingly—reported anxiety and stress.

However, respondents who are 55–70 years old defined themselves as “energetic.” McCaughan pointed out that this is one of the healthiest and wealthiest consumer groups in the entire world, calling it “Japan’s only true growth market.”

F for fiscal deficit
Though Jesper Koll is typically a Japan optimist, his update on the Japanese government deficit was less than rosy. The annual government budget deficit is currently 7.6 percent of national GDP. While this has improved in recent years, it is still far from ideal.
Koll, who is managing director and head of research at a major financial services provider, said nominal wages would have to increase 7 percent and the value-added tax rate would have to be 19 percent for Japan to achieve a balanced budget and begin to repay its debt. Unfortunately, Koll was confident about one thing: taxes will increase.

Other interesting facts and figures presented include:

When Japanese are asked which domestic brand they admire most, the majority cite Uniqlo. Interestingly, Uniqlo is also the international brand they most admire.

Some 45 percent of Japanese over the age of 25 have no debt and own their home outright. This low level of debt and high rate of property ownership is extremely rare compared with the rest of the world.

Car accidents are now more common among people over 65 years of age than among those 25 years of age and under.

Japan has eliminated the “drug lag;” approval times are now as fast or slightly faster than the United States, and about six months faster than Europe. This demonstrates the determination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to make Japan a healthcare leader.

Japan has reclaimed its fame as the world’s top shipbuilder, due mostly to the efficient and clean-burning engines of vessels built here.

We invite you to visit the ACCJ YouTube channel to view the entire event, and stay tuned for the GHI event in 2016!


Paul Kraft is
representative director and CEO of HoneyBaked Ham Japan and vice chair of the ACCJ Independent Business Committee.