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LEO LEWIS: In Japan's hierarchy of woe, ageing demographics are a mere mondai, problem, while the corporate implosion of Toshiba is a kiki, crisis. Worst is a shokku, shock. A term reserved for the ugliest market blights, like 1970s oil shortages and the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
There's a decent argument that at 1,543 points and a heads breadth from its 12-month, the topics index is an accident waiting to happen or, at least, ripe for profit taking now that the Trump rally is done. Even if the yen holds below 110 into the summer, US protectionism seems virtually guaranteed. And many see rising risk of a global growth slump to which an index like the topix is strongly geared.
But according to Deutsche Bank, investors may be on course for a distinct homegrown shokku of Japan's own, erupting between now and 2018 from government efforts to shorten working hours and make the labour market more friendly to the nation's overworked, childless, low spending households. Few would deny that Japanese workers in the main tend to overdo things. And recent high profile death by overwork cases have generated a following wind for reform.
The shokku, however, could come if a reduction in overtime working hours without certain key changes to tax incentives leads to a cut in labour inputs, causes further tightening in the labour market and hits corporate earnings with a hike in real hourly wages. A reduction in overtime pay could also hit private consumption. Japan points out Deutsche has form on this.
The first shorter work hours shokku followed a 1987 amendment to the Labour Standards law, the revised down legal weekly working hours from 1989, and says its economist was a major cause of Japan's stagnation up until around 2004, Grim stuff. But as so often, the market may already be way ahead on this, whether government and corporate rhetoric or working hours is genuine or frothi,
It is hard to envisage an outcome that does not actively expand Japan's part-time labour force and boost temporary staffing agencies of which there are many listed examples. Shares in recruit, temp holdings, in Japan and relo are all in respectable site of all time highs, suggesting that for every shokku there is a stock.