Wage increase in Japan

Big companies in Japan are giving their workers the pay raises they asked for. Some companies are even giving more than what was asked. 

Suzuki, Toyota, and Honda, among others, agreed to give raises. Those in the retail and food service are also increasing wages. However, it's still not clear if small and midsize companies will follow suit.

Because wages were low, people were saving more and spending less. Now that many will be receiving a pay raise, it's expected that people will start spending more.

Japan's economy remains weak

Kobayashi Shinichiro from Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting thinks Japan's economy is still not doing well. People are trying to spend less money because prices are going up.

Kobayashi says, "For the economy to get better, people need to spend more money. For that to happen, companies need to pay their workers more. The results of the wage talks will decide a lot about how the economy will be in the future."

These talks ended recently. Before the talks, Kobayashi also said if companies pay more, prices might increase, causing more inflation. This could then change how the central bank manages money.

Visuals: Global Income Distribution

The World Social Report 2020, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, shows that income inequality has increased in most developed countries and some middle-income countries, including China. Inequality is growing for more than 70 percent of the global population, exacerbating the risks of divisions and hampering economic and social development.

Have a look at the chart below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

The issue of universal basic income

The idea of universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining steam around the world. A Japanese billionaire and an American presidential candidate, among others, have both thrown their weight behind it.

The concept is simple: the government provides unconditional money to their citizens. The theory is that in order to provide basic services for all citizens and to stimulate the economy, a small amount of money can be given to each person, equally. 

In the United States, presidential candidate Andrew Yang has even given away $12,000 to a random Twitter follower. In his plan, each adult would receive that amount of money every year. Yang argues people will continue working, even with UBI. $12,000 a year is barely enough to live on in many places and certainly not enough to afford much in the way of experiences or advancement. To get ahead meaningfully, people will still need to get out there and work.

Mitsubishi Financial to launch AI

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group plans to establish an organization to look into the use of artificial intelligence in loan application screenings and market trend predictions.

The new entity will be called MUFG AI Studio. MUFG aims to develop new financial services and improve operational effectiveness by proactively adopting AI in the financial sector. They will use AI to screen loan applications through analyzing the risk of bankruptcy and other factors because AI is capable of understanding corporate earnings and financial flows. The AI is also expected to read worldwide news reports and forecast changes in stock and bond prices.

Under the initiative, MUFG is also considering using AI in other areas, including to collect expertise from people who have performed well in trading bonds and to find new loan borrowers. MUFG would then use that expertise to train its employees.

Japan's banks are downsizing

Japan’s biggest banks are racing to adapt to changing business conditions amid the shrinking population and spread of online banking.

Many have laid out plans to downsize their workforce and massive network of branches while investing in “fintech”—technological innovation in the financial sector—to streamline their operations and make banking more convenient for their customers.

Mitsubishi UFJ plans to trim 6,000 jobs from the unit’s domestic workforce of 40,000 by the end of fiscal year 2023.

Group CEO Nobuyuki Hirano said he does not foresee layoffs but instead plans to do this “organically” by keeping the number of new hires down as staff taken on in bulk in the run-up to and during the late-1980s asset bubble economy gradually reach the age of retirement.

Paying Employees in Bitcoin

GMO Internet, which operates a range of web-related businesses including finance, online advertising and internet infrastructure, will start paying up to 100,000 yen (£660/$890) monthly by Bitcoin to its employees in Japan from February this year.

“Employees can receive salaries by Bitcoin if they want to,” company spokeswoman Harumi Ishii said. “We hope to improve our own literacy of virtual currency by actually using it.”

The offer will be open to around 4,000 employees of the GMO group in Japan, she said.

World's richest man: Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, became the world's richest man, defeating Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft.

The recent surge in Amazon stock has pushed Bezos' fortune to over $90 billion, vaulting him past Bill Gates. Bezos has been chasing Gates for the number one spot for a few years now and finally succeeded in superseding him. But this dream run was short-lived. On Thursday, Bill Gates was crowned again as the world's richest man as Amazon stocks went down by 1%. 

Because their wealth is largely a result of the shares they own of their company and its fluctuating price, it is possible that the wealthiest title may go back and forth between Gates and Bezos.

Sport and money

The footballer Neymar has dismissed suggestions his world-record £198m move to Paris Saint-Germain was motivated by money and instead insisted he moved to the French capital for “a new challenge”.

“I wanted something bigger, a bigger challenge. This was about ambition,” Neymar said. “I was never motivated by money. I thought about the happiness of my family, regardless of money.”

Nasser al-Khelaifi, the PSG owner, said “For me Neymar is the best player in the world. With him our project will grow even stronger. Let’s enjoy Neymar.”

The transfer has not been well received by everyone, however. The international players’ association released a statement demanding an investigation into “anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal” Fifa transfer rules.

Robo-advisors gaining popularity

The majority of affluent and high-net-worth individuals recognize the potential of robo-advisors and automated investment services to add value to their wealth management services.

[According to a study of 600 investors in the UK and US] more than 70% of overall respondents think that such tools can positively influence their wealth manager’s advice and decision-making process and that automated advice potentially speeds up onboarding processes such as registration and account opening, making these processes more efficient and convenient. This underlines how the young and the wealthy are especially showing a great openness, awareness and knowledge about robo advice.

Toshiba loses "billions of dollars"

Toshiba Corp said it may have to book several billion dollars in charges related to a U.S. nuclear power plant construction company acquisition, sending its stock tumbling 12 percent and rekindling concerns about its accounting acumen.