How Japan is working towards economic recovery post COVID-19

Dr Samuel Barbosa Da Cunha - economic recovery post COVID-19

How Japan is working towards economic recovery post COVID-19

All around the world, countries are trying to strike the tricky balance of living with the COVID-19 pandemic and salvaging the economy. It’s no different here in Japan, although we are in a better position than some. The question now is how can we best prepare an economic recovery for a post COVID-19 future?

Working towards an economic recovery post COVID-19 in Japan

Businesses in Japan have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. A survey of more than 10,000 Japanese companies found that 63% of owners are concerned about the virus affecting their business.

However, the upsides to lockdown and a change of pace in Japan has also prompted us to reflect on the country’s traditional working culture. Business in Japan has always meant very long hours and a ‘work till you drop’ culture. More time spent in the home due to the virus is likely to change at least some mindsets. Being able to successfully work remotely and online is even creating business opportunities for some.

Six months into the pandemic and Tokyo is living its new normal. The national State of Emergency was lifted at the end of May, and since then much has been done to keep the country moving. Businesses are back open, people are eating out and heading back to shops.

This is possible due to stringent and widespread safety measures in place all over the country. In Tokyo, you will have your temperature checked before you enter shops, restaurants and places of business. Sanitiser is applied at the door. Online reservations are allowing art galleries, such as the National Art Center and other attractions to open to the public without queues.

However, even with all of these measures the pandemic is still very much with us. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported on 30 September 2020 that Japan has 83,010 positive cases of COVID-19. Deaths remain relatively low when compared with many other countries, particularly the United States.

Business travel restrictions are loosening

For the most part, Japan is getting on with business and life for the most part. Anyone reentering the country still has to go into an immediate 14-day quarantine, but it appears the Government may lift this at the end of October. According to a report from Kyodo News, the Government is planning to make all business travellers and Japanese citizens exempt from the quarantine.

This will, of course, help to stimulate business and economic activity. To qualify, travellers will have to be able to submit a comprehensive plan detailing all movements for the next two weeks. This will include workplaces and accommodation, and public transport will not be available to them for two weeks. It remains to be seen whether this will work effectively, but it is another sign of the measures the Government is taking to re-energise the economy.

As Japan looks ahead, every business must find a new way to work. Keeping businesses moving online, finding new distributed work models, encouraging a change in work patterns. All of these measures can keep the economy going.

A major blow to our economy was, of course, the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. These will now take place in 2021 and should provide the spark to re-energise the Japanese economy.

Digital transformation has been sped up across businesses due to the pandemic. Traditional companies have been forced to get on board with the tech necessary to work online and this ultimately benefits the entire economy. Japan is a Fintech hub that is growing in global importance, and in some ways COVID-19 has spurred this on.

COVID-19 is a catalyst for change in Japan

I think we will see the traditional workaholic culture I mentioned earlier change, at least in some sectors. Companies of all types and sizes are experiencing first-hand that remote working is possible. And with big businesses like Panasonic leading the way, remote working is likely to become an accepted norm in a country that has always focused on the importance of in-office work.

Realistically, we are all still learning to live with this pandemic. When we look back at history, we can see that major pandemics were catalysts for huge changes. From the Black Death to the Spanish Influenza of 1917, pandemics force mass change. And looking ahead, I think we will see the same thing from COVID-19.

The most important steps we can take as individuals are to remain calm, continue working, shopping and contributing to the economy. As businesses, we can lead by example and work with the new normal.