Japan likely to revise proposed budget due to wage-data errors

Labor ministry officials have admitted issuing monthly wage data without meeting sampling standards for years. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019

Japan likely to revise proposed budget due to wage-data errors

  • The data error has caused the ministry to underestimate payments made under Japan’s employment insurance program
  • Labor ministry officials admitted issuing monthly wage data without meeting sampling standards for years

TOKYO: Japan’s government is likely to revise its budget draft for the next fiscal year to pay for a shortfall of employment insurance benefits caused by errors in the country’s wage data, Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Friday.
The likely budget revision — a rare move — would follow the revelation that the labor ministry miscalculated workers’ average wages for years.
The data error has caused the ministry to underestimate payments made under Japan’s employment insurance program, which includes unemployment benefits, and another insurance covering compensation for workplace accidents.
Labor ministry officials admitted on Wednesday that they have issued monthly wage data without meeting sampling standards for years, hurting the credibility of a key gauge of the success of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies.
“Economic indicators provide the basis for decision on fiscal and economic policies and they must always be accurate,” Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “It’s very regrettable that the wages data will be recompiled.”
Aso said the wage data flaw has caused the labor ministry to underestimate benefits for employment insurance and workpeople’s accident insurance. As a result, it needs to pay for additional benefits to make up for past shortfalls by adding necessary funds to the budget for the fiscal year to begin April 1.
“It’s highly likely that the budget draft will be revised,” Aso said, adding that the amount of extra spending has not been fixed yet.
In compiling the monthly data, which covers some 33,000 firms with five or more full-time employees, the labor ministry is supposed to collect samples from all the companies that employ 500 or more workers.
But it turned out that the data sampling failed to cover two-thirds of some 1,400 businesses in Tokyo for an unspecified period of time, ministry officials said. Domestic media reported the sampling error extends back for 15 years.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Friday the government would examine all economic indicators.
The budget draft was compiled in December and was due to be sent to the parliament later this month for approval before April 1.
Abe’s cabinet last month approved a record ¥101.5 trillion ($937.12 billion) annual budget draft, featuring spending to offset the pain of a planned sales tax hike scheduled for October.

World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019

World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

  • Delegates to annual forum to include presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan

DUBAI: World leaders are preparing to head to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, amid the riskiest global backdrop in years, according to a report from the event organizer itself.

As the WEF announced the names of some of the 3,000 participants set to attend the meeting and details of the four-day agenda, it also published a gloomy outlook on international politics, economics, the environment and technology. 

Rising geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are the most urgent risks in 2019, with 90 percent of experts surveyed expecting further economic confrontation between major powers, according to the WEF’s annual Global Risks Report.

“The world’s ability to foster collective action in the face of urgent major crises has reached crisis levels, with worsening international relations hindering action across a growing array of serious challenges. Meanwhile, a darkening economic outlook, in part caused by geopolitical tensions, looks set to further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019,” it added.

Although political and economic worries were top of the immediate agenda for the 1,000 experts polled by the WEF, the environment and climate change are also a cause for concern, as are “rapidly evolving” cyber and technological threats, the WEF said.

Børge Brende, the WEF president, said: “With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation. We simply do not have the gunpowder to deal with the kind of slowdown that current dynamics might lead us toward. What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today.”

The leaders who will begin to arrive in Switzerland in the next week include Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil; Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany; and Wang Qishan, vice president of China.

With US President Donald Trump pulling out of the meeting to deal with the partial government shutdown, the American delegation is expected to be led by Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state.

The Middle East is well represented at the meeting, with at least nine heads of state or government from the region, including Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia will be represented by a team of senior policymakers and business leaders.

The risk report will give them all food for thought in the Alpine resort.

Asking whether the world is “sleepwalking into a crisis,” the report responded: “Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening. The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centered politics continued throughout 2018.

“The idea of ‘taking back control’ — whether domestically from political rivals or externally from multilateral or supranational organizations — resonates across many countries and many issues.”

Macro-economic risks have moved into sharper focus, it said. 

“Financial market volatility increased and the headwinds facing the global economy intensified. The rate of global growth appears to have peaked,” the report said, pointing to a slowdown in growth forecasts for China as well as high levels of global debt — at 225 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), significantly higher than before the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Raising the prospect of a “climate catastrophe,” the report said extreme weather, which many experts attribute to rapid climate change, was a risk of great concern. “The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear,’ the WEF said.

Of the 3,000 participants at Davos, which runs from Jan. 22 to 25, around 78 percent are men, with an average age of 54. 

The oldest will be the 92-year-old British broadcaster David Attenborough, the youngest 16-year-old South African wildlife photographer Skye Meaker.