Japan OKs plan promoting digitalization, telework under ‘new normal’ – The Mainichi - Freelance Rack

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Japan OKs plan promoting digitalization, telework under ‘new normal’ – The Mainichi

This file photo shows a man teleworking from his home in Tokyo in June 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese Cabinet approved Friday its annual economic policy guideline to promote reforms toward the digitalization of society and further switching to teleworking, under the “new normal” era amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

Increasing the government’s effort to build “national resilience” to protect people’s lives and livelihoods from natural disasters and to minimize the damage was also included hastily in the government’s annual economic policy blueprint, following torrential rain ripping through southwestern Japan earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the document failed to make any reference to specific goals regarding Japan’s fiscal reconstruction, including the target of bringing its primary balance — tax revenue minus expenses other than debt-servicing costs — into the black by fiscal 2025 which was stipulated in the 2018 and 2019 guidelines.

Finance Minister Taro Aso has said there is no need to immediately review the positive turnaround target, even though economic fallout from the pandemic is highly likely to further worsen Japan’s fiscal health, the worst among the world’s major economies with public debt of over 1,100 trillion yen ($10.3 trillion).

Under a year of “the intensive reform period” toward the country’s digitalization, the idea of linking the “My Number” personal identification system with residence cards for foreigners and driving licenses was specified in the plan, along with the goal of offering administrative procedures online in principle.

Launched in 2015 with issuance of a 12-digit number to each citizen and foreign resident, the My Number system was designed to enable people to access governmental services online.

But lack of a legal requirement to actually apply for the free plastic IC-chipped “Individual Number Card” with the 12-digit number on it has led to a low card possession rate, drawing criticism of slow delivery of the government’s 100,000 yen cash handouts to ease the virus impact, which the card holders can apply for online aside from by mail.

As for teleworking, the government plans to set numerical targets so remote work takes root in Japan, especially among small and midsize companies. It will also draw up guidelines for business managers to push on with corporate digitalization by next March.

“By taking on changes and leveraging diversity, our country will enhance toughness and form a ‘new normal,’ making use of our unique strength and characteristics,” the policy guideline said.

To strengthen local communities’ capability of natural disaster prevention, risk management utilizing digital technology and reinforcement of infrastructure, such as putting utility wires and the power grid underground, will be promoted.

The importance of disaster management has recently been reviewed as heavy rain for about a week since July 3 ripped through the southwestern region of Kyushu and other areas, killing over 70 people, along with other calamities such as heavy rain and flooding in western Japan in 2018 and Typhoon Hagibis last year.

The government’s growth strategy was also approved by the Cabinet, with reexamination of long-fixed interbank transfer fees serving as a bottleneck for cashless transactions and improvement of the working environment for freelance and side-job workers referred to as challenges.

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