Monday, July 30, 2007

Bank of Ireland's Wealth of the Nation Report 2007: Tough Times in Japan - the Wealthiest Nation on Earth

Katsuaki Watanabe, President, Toyota Motor Corporation

Bank of Ireland Private Banking published its annual Wealth of the Nation Report today which shows that Ireland is second only to Japan in the league of the wealthiest nations on earth.

For those who would in this grim summer of rain, cast a jaundiced eye on the glad tidings of an increase of 10% in the number of Irish millionaires (excluding principal private residence), consider the lot of the wealthiest nation - Japan.

Japan's national statistics office reported on March 2nd that inflation was zero in January, signalling the struggle to end a decade of deflation.

Core consumer prices, which exclude fresh food, were unchanged from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said.

Earnings fell the most in more than two years, according to a separate report, signalling the difficulties that the Bank of Japan has in raising its key interest rate from the lowest in the world at 0.5%.Wages fell 1.4% in January, the biggest fall since June 2004, the Labour Ministry said.

A recent Japanese Cabinet Office survey showed that people felt a high level of anxiety about their daily lives, the highest angst level recorded since the poll began nearly 40 years ago despite a recovery in the economy.

Japan's economy has grown for 60 consecutive months, the longest period of growth in the post-war era. While unemployment has fallen from 5.4% in 2002 to 4.1% at the end of 2006, wages have not moved. Statistics published by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare show that the average Japanese made $2,881 a month in 2002. For most of 2006, the average monthly wage was only $2,749.

Japanese companies have kept wages in check in part by shifting more work to part-time employees, who now constitute over 33% of Japan's workforce, up from 20% in 1992.

The corporate sector has had the longest run of quarterly profit increases in 36 years, according to the Ministry of Finance. Earnings from operations rose over 12% in the financial year ending March 31, 2007, according to Nomura Research Institute, basing its estimate on the Nomura 400 index of the nation's largest companies.

Companies have not paid much heed to the pleas of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pass on more of their profits in wages. Instead, they are investing in new factories and upgrading equipment after a decade-long economic stagnation that followed the bursting of the bubble economy of the late 1980s.

Toyota raised its wages last March by a monthly average of €6.


The squeeze on earnings is having an impact on consumer spending which accounts for about half the Japanese economy.

Toyota overtook General Motors as the world's biggest car maker in the first quarter of 2007 but it's home market is more than in the doldrums.

Toyota sales boost came from overseas markets in particular North America as Japan posted the lowest car sales in the twelve months to March 2007, since 1977.

Japan's vehicle sales fell for a 21st consecutive month, led by Nissan Motor and Toyota Motor.

Sales of cars, trucks and buses, excluding minicars, fell 12.6 percent to 487,738 vehicles in March from a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in early April. Nissan's sales fell 16%, while Toyota's dropped 12%.

The wealthiest nation but some fun place to be for many layers in the economic pyramid!