Japanese Salarymen’s Reduced Allowance Highlights Struggling Economy

Japanese money salarymen

Shinsei Bank building. | Image: Nippon.com English via Flickr CC.

Consumer prices in Japan increased 2.9 percent during the last fiscal year. Japanese salarymen are facing an increase in lunch prices and that’s a bad economic indicator for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was hoping that these workers would drive economic improvement.

Research conducted by Shinsei Bank indicates that monthly spending by salarymen has fallen 4.9 percent compared to last year. Chris Flowers, a leader in the international financial world, sits on the board of Shinsei Bank and has been a keen observer of the Japanese economy.

The Shinsei Bank’s data goes back to 1979 and reports that salarymen spend about $40 on a night out drinking, with lunch as their greatest expense. Their monthly pocket money averages about $307, a decrease from $15 from last year.

Wives in Japan often control the family budget and provide their husbands with spending money. They use these allowances to purchase lunch and to pay for an average of two nights of drinking after work.

A survey of Japanese parents asked what profession they preferred their children to pursue. Their first choice was a government position. Seen as a stable career pathway. Their second choice was salaryman. Neither is an easy path to pursue.

A salaryman’s professional pathway is charted soon after his or her birth. Parents begin to plan their child’s education, selecting only the best pre-schools, which lead to the best grammar schools. Regular school hours are augmented by cram schools to prepare for tests that will determine your college education.

Once hired by a corporation a salaryman is considered a “freshman” and rotates between different departments every six months or so. This process provides the new employee with insight into the structure of the company and also allows skills to emerge. The salaryman hopes plans to stay with this company for the remainder of his or her professional life. It’s important to find the right fit.

It’s especially important because the salaryman often spends six days a week at work and puts in a 12-hour day, frequently extended by a lengthy commute of up to an hour in each direction. It’s possible now to appreciate the importance of a generous lunch allowance. Lunch is a time for salarymen to socialize and find some relief from the day-to-day pressures of their job.

The Shinsei Bank research draws attention to a growing rift between salarymen in their 20’s and 30’s and the older generation in their 40’s and 50’s. The younger workers feel the impact of consumer price increases and increases in the consumption tax. The current rate is 85 percent and will be increased to 10 percent in April 2017.

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DocuSign Launches Chicagoland Research and Development Innovation Hub       

Earlier this month DocuSign, a leader in e-signature technology, announced the expansion of its Chicagoland Research and Development Innovation Hub in Warrenville, Illinois. The Innovation Hub will reportedly contain 5,950 square feet of Class A office space intended to house more than 40 employees, and exist as a space where innovative ideas are put to the test to help DocuSign continue to grow.

And expansion is exactly what DocuSign has been committed to achieving over the last few years. As Chicago Inno points, out, San Francisco-based and Keith Krach-led DocuSign “has been growing like crazy.” The company, which now has 100,000 customers in nearly 200 countries, raised a whopping $278 million this past May alone, putting the company at a valuation of $3 billion. What’s more, with the expansion to Illinois through the creation of the Chicagoland Research and Development Innovation Hub, DocuSign shows no signs of slowing down.DocuSign

With DocuSign expanding as far and wide as it has been, Illinois might at first seem an unlikely choice to set up shop. According to David Brummel, the Mayor of Warrenville, it’s actually a perfect choice. “Chicagoland and Warrenville in particular have become well known for the strength of our talent pool and a long history of powering innovation on a local, regional, national, and global scale,” he explained. “We’re thrilled to have DocuSign as the global standard for Digital Transaction Management plant roots in Warrenville to tap into the vast technology and development talent resident in Chicagoland.”

Explains Tom Gonser, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of DocuSign, “Our expansion of the team in Warrenville demonstrates our increased investment in DocuSign for Real Estate in the United States and globally,” of how this new Innovation Hub will lend itself to the development of further real estate opportunities for DocuSign.

Learn more about how the “tech unicorn” plans to continue innovating its field in Chicagoland here.

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WNYC Launches Podcast Accelerator

WNYC public radioWNYC is an award-winning New York public radio station that has been creating deeply compelling podcasts for many years. You’ve likely heard of some of them; acclaimed podcasts such as “Death, Sex & Money” and “Radiolab” have been delighting listeners and modernizing storytelling for more than a decade. As a public radio station, WNYC relies heavily on support from trustees like Anton Levy and Laura Walker, as well as from its devoted listeners.

This month, WNYC will be counting on its listeners for more than just monetary support. It was recently announced that WNYC is launching a program to accelerate the process in which ideas for podcasts are generated, and relying on crowdsourcing as a way to make it all happen.

According to Capital New York,

“WNYC announced the launch of a podcast accelerator that will help funnel ideas for new audio programming into the New York-based public radio station. The accelerator is opening an application for people with ideas for podcasts, which they can submit online.”

Reportedly, five finalists will receive support and mentorship from WNYC podcast producers, and the winning submission will be made into a pilot episode. For podcast super fans, this is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the process behind every great podcast.

“We’re excited to find and work with the finalists – who could be established print journalists or undiscovered personalities with no formal training – to bring something completely new into the world and potentially, the WNYC roster of podcasts,” explains Paula Szuchman, the senior director of digital content at WNYC.

Even though WNYC has been in the podcast business since the early 2000s, its directors understand the importance of continuing to innovate the medium, especially as podcasts from other channels become more and more popular. The announcement of the podcast accelerator program is among other similar efforts to expand its tremendous podcast success, explains Capital New York.

To pitch your own big podcast idea and potentially win the chance to produce a pilot, apply here.

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Boko Haram Civilian Attack in Jos

Boko Haram causes unrest in Nigeria

Nigeria has experienced great unrest at the hands of Boko Haram for some time now. | Image: Diariocritico de Venezuela via Flickr CC.

Two bomb attacks on the central Nigerian city of Jos left 44 people dead early this week. A restaurant and a mosque were the target and the attacks happened shortly after Ramadan fast was broken which left both sites filled with people. Gunmen and suicide bombers in the two cases brought the death toll from Boko Haram attacks in just the last week to more than 200 people.

A bomb that had been planted caused the blast at the restaurant and the mosque was attacked by a suicide bomber and then preceded by gunfire. Many believe the mosque imam who was preaching at the time was the target of the attack. Sheikh Muhammad Sani Yahya Jingir who survived the attack, is known for his preaching against Boko Haram. He has survived several assassination attempts at his home and is known as one of Nigeria’s most influential clerics.

Mr. Umar Farouk Musa who is a spokesman for J.N.I. or Jama’atu Nasril Islam said he witnessed the mosque attack. “We saw these people emerging from nowhere, covered with blankets,” he said in a telephone interview from Jos, referring to the gunmen. “Before we knew it, they disappeared into thin air. There were victims beyond what we could count.”

Many of the attacks that have happened over the last week have involved a bombing and indiscriminate shooting into crowds of civilians. The most recent was a suicide bomber at a church on Sunday who killed six people.

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Puerto Rico Gov. Says Country can No Longer Make Debt Payments

Puerto Rican Flag

Puerto Rico is in a “death spiral” of debt. Image: MJ Baumann via Flickr CC.

Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla says that he needs to pull the island out of a “death spiral” and has concluded that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts. The warning comes only one day before the governor is expected to release a report that is conducted by former officials at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which paints a very bleak picture for the commonwealth’s finances. Many media reports say that the governor will deliver a major speech Monday following the report’s release.

“The debt is not payable,” Mr. García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.” This was a startling admission from the governor of an island of 3.6 million people which has piled on more municipal bond debt per capita than any American state. Much of Puerto Rico’s debt is widely held by individual investors on the United States mainland; in mutual funds or other investment accounts and they may not be aware of it.

As a commonwealth, Puerto Rico does not have the option of bankruptcy. A default on their debts would leave the island, its creditors and its residents in a legal and financial limbo that could take years to sort out. With other payment deadlines looming, Mr. Garcia Padilla and his staff are beginning to look for possible concessions on all forms of government debt. In order to pay its general obligation bonds, the central government must set aside about $93 million each month. In living memory, no American state has restructured its general obligation debt.

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