At the Tokyo JAT meeting on February 24, Yuko Kawamoto spoke about the need for structural reform and innovation to achieve Japanese economic growth. She concluded with a few words on the translation industry, noting that prospects are good for skilled, specialized translators due to advances in technology and globalization. This write-up by Helen Iwata covers the key points of the presentation.
Numerous factors in post-war Japan have made serious structural reform a must. These include a major demographic shift, misdirected investment, and a record high government deficit. Meanwhile, businesses have tended to pay little attention to profitability, and the country’s banks have worked off a huge volume of bad debt accumulated during the bubble years. To sustain the presence and growth of the Japanese economy and society, Japan must establish an economic structure that enables it to optimize resource allocation and fully leverage the potential of its people.
The aging of Japanese society presents a major challenge for the government. By 2025, 46 percent of the population is expected to be over 60 – eligible for a pension – compared with just 18 percent in 1970. At the same time, the birthrate is declining. This situation has resulted in ballooning social security costs, with the current pension system unable to generate sufficient funds to be sustainable, and growing healthcare responsibilities.
Furthermore, the government does not invest sufficiently in the country’s youth, beginning with school-age children. The government’s policy of yutori kyoiku – the “relaxed” education system – has resulted in thinner textbooks and lower academic standards. Ranking among OECD countries, Japanese school children fell from 8th to 14th in reading comprehension and 1st to 6th in mathematical application between 2000 and 2003.
Out of school, a relatively high number of young Japanese are also out of a job. While Japan claims overall unemployment rates of under five percent, joblessness among 15 to 24 year olds grew from around six percent in 1995 to almost ten percent in 2003.
Instead of investing in its people, Japan continues to pour funds into infrastructure. By 2003, the government had laid 3.07 kilometers of concrete road per square kilometer – more than any other country. Germany ranked second, but with only 1.77 kilometers per square kilometer. Compared with the U.S., Japan has 30 times more concrete per person. Even though only a few of Japan’s numerous highways are profitable, the government still plans to build more roads and bridges.
Infrastructure maintenance costs are high and contribute to the growing financial burden on Japan’s shrinking population. The ratio of total public debt to GDP at national and local levels increased from 87.1 to 170 percent between 1995 and 2005. By comparison, the UK ratio fell from 52.7 to 44.9 in the same period.
On the business side, Japan suffers from a lack of management sensitivity to profitability. The average operating profit margin in the 1960s was 4.8 percent. By the 1990s, it had fallen to 2.5 percent, and in the 2000 to 2006 period, it had only recovered to 2.85 percent. This is half of European profitability and one third that of the U.S. Although Japan wrote off over JPY100 million of bad debt between 1996 and 2006, regional banks still hold JPY15 trillion in non-performing loans, and profitability in those financial institutions has been almost flat in the same period.
In response to the above factors and the resulting need for structural reform, the Japanese government has launched efforts spanning finance, government-affiliated corporations, fiscal discipline, regulation, the pension system, Japan Highway Public Corporation, the postal service, and a regional reform that aims to reduce national subsidies, transfer tax revenues to local governments, and reform the grant-in-aid system. While some areas, notably the bad assets issue, have seen progress, reform is far from complete in others.
Structural reform alone, however, is not enough. Japan also needs to innovate in order to address weak productivity, respond to the changes in the 21st century economy and corporate environment, and compete internationally.
A look at labor productivity in Japan reveals that the economy is polarized. Ten percent of the workforce is employed in export-oriented manufacturing, including automotives, electronic machinery, IT equipment, and steel, where labor productivity is 20 percent higher than in the U.S. Productivity in other sectors, which collectively employ 90 percent of the workforce, is 37 percent lower than the U.S. average. Moreover, while productivity in the Japanese retail sector is half that of the U.S., the Japanese work 47 percent longer hours than Americans. Innovating to increase productivity in the sectors that employ the majority of the population is vital if Japan is to achieve economic growth, especially in the face of its declining workforce.
At the same time, the 21st century economy is characterized by three factors: globalization (expanded business sphere and increased M&As and market failures), capitalization (heightened volatility due to a greater likelihood of market impact), and digitalization (expanded networks and information volume). Simplification and flexibility through innovation are essential for business leaders to manage increased complexity.
Recently, the Japanese corporate environment has shown clear signs of change. Companies used to have low profitability and capital productivity, but domestic institutional investors in capital markets are demanding stronger returns, and more activist funds, such as Murakami Fund and Steel Partners, are emerging or taking an interest in Japan. The number of M&As is likely to increase as Japanese companies become potential targets for foreign players. As a result, top management is under increasing pressure to enhance corporate value and looking for innovative ways to do so.
Japanese companies are becoming more aware of the need for governance, and are beginning to reorganize into boards (ownership), corporates (management), and business units (execution). Disclosure requirements are becoming more stringent, and there is a more apparent correlation between information disclosure and performance – with disclosure, companies become more self-disciplined, work faster, and become accustomed to evaluating and verifying results. Japanese companies need to move away from individualist thinking and embrace more objectiveness, including bringing in outside directors – even women!
While Japan has some highly competitive international players, others lag in comparison with their global rivals. In a Yahoo! Finance index ranking the top company in each industry as 100, Japan leads the automotive industry with Toyota at 100, while DaimlerChrysler scores 33.3. By contrast, non-Japanese players lead other sectors, namely mobile phones, courier services, banking, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, consumer goods, electrical equipment, retail, and food, and Japan lags considerably. For example, Pfizer stands at 100 with Takeda at just 21.1, P&G scores 100 and Kao trails with a mere 9.8. Japanese companies need to innovate in order to compete globally.
Despite the clear need for innovation in the above areas, Japan’s investment in venture capital compared to GDP is the lowest among OECD countries and around one tenth of the average. Japan has its share of outstanding scientists and engineers, and plenty of investors and cash to support them in the pursuit of innovation. An environment that allows these resources to be fully leveraged, however, remains to be created.
Corporations are looking at innovative ways to leverage resources and do business. As part of this effort, executives from a number of Japan’s top companies should form a group with the aim of promoting a freer labor market for talented individuals, including movement between academia and business, and investing into venture startups. Innovation, particularly to improve productivity, will continue to be an important theme in Japan.
Implications for translators
Japanese and English translation supply is growing due largely to two factors: more translators and more output per person on average. In addition to the translation community traditionally found in Japan and English-speaking nations, large numbers of practitioners are emerging in developing countries, such as India and China. Productivity and potential output per translator have increased with advances in technology, including faster look-up through the Internet and wider use of tools such as translation memory, optical character recognition, and voice recognition. Increased supply is putting downward pressure on translation rates in parts of the market. In a sense, this reflects a balancing of supply and demand compared with the past when limited supply drove prices higher.
The good news for translators is that globalization and larger flows of information will bring more translation demand because most people will not have the skill or will to learn the required languages quickly enough to be able to operate effectively in a multilingual environment. In this expanded market, if translators translate like machines, that is, if they simply replace words automatically with little consideration for context or appropriate target-audience style, they will produce material of machine-translation quality and earn at machine-translation rates. Translators who provide a value-added service through expertise in their field and polished writing skills will command higher rates. Quality is key.
Why should I join JAT?
Being a member of JAT allows you to:
- Connect to a community of fellow translators and interpreters.
Especially for freelancers, being a translator can be a fairly isolating experience, as many of our members work alone from home, for clients on other continents. JAT helps to bring back a sense of community through jat-list, a mailing list where members can ask eachother questions about translation-related topics, monthly meetings about translation topics held in the Tokyo area, annual IJET conferences, and other events around the world.
- Promote yourself in our database of translators.
Translation agencies and other companies or individuals looking for translation services can search our open database by language, specialization, and location. And since every member gets their own address on the JAT web site (
member.jat.orgmember-name), it’s easy to refer clients to your resume.
- Get discounts on JAT events like IJET and monthly meetings.
Being a JAT member entitles you to discounts on IJET conferences, and free admission to our monthly meetings in Tokyo. For our more active members, these discounts offset most of the membership dues.
How do I become a JAT member?
First, you need to create a profile by going to our Signup page. Once you’ve done this, and logged in as a guest, you can become a JAT member by clicking the “Become a member” button from your Settings page. As soon as you’ve paid your dues, you can subscribe to the mailing list and enjoy all the other benefits of membership.
How much does it cost to become a JAT member?
The annual dues for JAT membership are JPY 10,000.
How can I pay my membership fee?
You can pay by either PayPal or Japanese bank transfer. More details are available here.
What is my OpenID identity URL?
OpenID is a protocol that lets anyone log in to any supporting website with a single, unified login. This means that you can use one login for all sites that support OpenID, instead of having to remember a username and password for each. You can learn more about OpenID, or create your new OpenID account in English or in Japanese. Note that OpenID is offered as a convenience, and not required in order to log in the JAT website.
Who will be able to see my profile?
That depends on your profile settings, as set on the Settings page. Logged-in JAT members can view all of the profile for other members. Non-members can see only the information that each member has decided to make public. JAT members can choose to make public any or all of (1) their primary contact information, (2) secondary contact information, and (3) specialties and background. Note that even if contact information is made public, email addresses are replaced with a contact form. This allows members to receive inquiries from non-members, without fear of having their email address out in the open for spammers to harvest.
What is my Web address on the JAT site?
Your web address on the JAT site is
http://member.jat.org/username, where username is your JAT username.
What should I do if I’ve forgotten my username/password?
On the Login page, click the Reset password link at the bottom, and enter the primary email address of your JAT member account. Within a minute, you should receive a link that you can click to automatically log in.
Should I make my profile public?
Members are allowed to choose whether they want to make certain parts of their profile public. While some members choose to keep their information hidden for privacy reasons, others choose make it public, to let potential clients get in touch with them more easily. Since there are separate privacy settings for contact information and professional information (such as background and specialties), members can decide what to make public and what to make private. Members can change their privacy settings on the Settings page.
How can potential clients contact me?
Every JAT member receives their own web address on the JAT site (
http://member.jat.org/username). All members can be contacted from the page at this address, through a contact form whose contents are sent to the primary email address of that member. Members wishing to be contacted by other means can make their contact information public.
Why are my posts to jat-list being rejected?
There may be several reasons that your posts to the JAT mailing list are being rejected.
- Your JAT membership has expired.
- You are posting from an unregistered email address.
- Your email address has been suspended due to excessive bounces.
If the emails you send to the list are getting bounced, go to the Settings page, and make sure that your membership is current, and that the email addresses under which you are currently subscribed are valid.
How do I unsubscribe from jat-list?
If you no longer wish to receive jat-list email, from the Settings page, select Do not send jat-list email for the email address for which you would like to stop receiving email. Note that you will still be able to send email to the list, but will no longer receive email. This setting takes 24 hours to take effect.
Now that we've flipped the switch and officially launched our new site, we'd like to tell everyone a little bit about it.
Why a new site?
According to the wayback machine
, JAT has maintained a web site since late 1996. Since then, it has grown from a collection of links to include to a searchable member database and an integrated mailing list. Unfortunately, the infrastructure upon which the site was built wasn't really equipped to handle its new responsibilities, and like a translation that has been revised by generations of editors, was drowning in cruft. The recently elected board decided to make this a priority, and has decided to make the switch from a hand-coded system to one based on well-tested frameworks.
Because most of the changes to the new site are in the background, the new site currently looks much like the old one, with a few exceptions:
A linkable page for every member
The six separate directories on the old site have been replaced by a single, unified interface. Instead of a public directory (that anyone can see) and a private directory (that only JAT members can see), there is a single directory that displays all profiles to logged-in members, and only public profiles to everyone else. And unlike the last directory, every member now has their own linkable and bookmarkable page, from which they can be contacted by other members.
Improved site organization
Since the new site is based on a content management system, the JAT admins no longer need to wade through a mess of inconsistent HTML to update the web site, and can manage the entire site from a single web-based interface. This is going to make it much easier for us to not only add fresh content, but add it in both English and Japanese, since multi-lingual support is baked into the platform.
Searchable archives, linked to member profile pages
Our next goal for the site is to integrate the archives for jat-list in realtime, linked with the profiles of each members. This is currently available separately at jat-lists
thanks to the hard work of previous Webmaster Ryan Ginstrom, but we're going to try to integrate it with the rest of the site to make everything easier to find.
More content in both English and Japanese
Now that we have a content management system in place to manage everything, it will be much easier to add content for both languages. The JAT board is going to make efforts to have most of the important site content in both languages from now on.
We'll explain more over the coming weeks about additional functionality available on the new site, including OpenID
(a new way to manage your logins) and Gravatars
(to put your picture on your profile page).
Keep in mind that we'll be making small tweaks to the functionality and style of the site over the next few months, so please let our Webmaster
know if you have any ideas or suggestions.
The finalists for both the Japanese to English contest and the English to Japanese contest have been finalized.
The winner will be announced on February 14.
For further information please contact [email protected]
Designed to foster, recognize, and reward excellence in commercial, non-literary translation between Japanese and English by new translators, the fourth annual awards will be given in 2008. A 450-member-strong organization of professional freelance and in-house translators and interpreters, JAT is dedicated to promoting the interests of individual translators and interpreters working between Japanese and English worldwide.
FOURTH ANNUAL JAT CONTEST FOR NEW AND ASPIRING TRANSLATORS
- Sponsored by: Japan Association of Translators (JAT)
- Purpose: To cultivate new talent in commercial, non-literary translation
- Qualification: Anyone with less than three years of commercial translation experience. (JAT membership not required. Except for the winners, entrants in the past contests are welcome to enter again.)
- Categories: Japanese-to-English and English-to-Japanese
- Entry fee: Free
- Awards (each category):
The First Place winner in each category will receive a free trip to IJET-19, to be held on April 12 (Sat.) and 13 (Sun.), 2008 in Okinawa, Japan, including registration fee, round-trip ticket, and hotel accommodations (3 nights), plus a one-year membership in JAT. Each Second Place winner will receive a one-year membership in JAT.
- Japanese-to-English: Malcolm James, Steve Venti, Ken Wagner
- English-to-Japanese: Junko Ogawara, Ayako Sato, Yukari Ishihara
- Oct. 15, 2007 - Source texts available for downloading from the JAT website
- Nov. 30, 2007 (24:00 Japan Time)- Submission deadline
- Jan. 18, 2008 - Five finalists announced on JAT website
- Feb. 14, 2008 - Awards announced on JAT website and by direct e-mail to the winners
- April - Winners invited to IJET-19 in Okinawa, Japan
About the Source Text
The material to be translated will be content intended for the general public educated in the source language. Refer to Previous JAT Translation Contests
for the source texts used in the previous contests.
Download the source text for the J>E contest here
Download the source text for the E>J contest here
ENTRY FORM – JAT Translation Contest
- Submissions must be sent as an MS Word .doc file or a plain text file by file attachment with your entry form.
- Your file should only contain the translated text. Do not write your name or comments.
- Name the file as follows:
CONTEST E your name (e.g. CONTEST E Maria Sharapova)
- Submissions will be confirmed by return e-mail.
- Only one entry per person is allowed in each category.
- All submissions become the property of JAT and will not be returned.
- JAT retains the copyright to all submitted entries.
- JAT reserves all rights to publicize the winners' names, winning entry, photo and/or likenesses, and background information on its web site, mailing list, and electronic or printed publications.
- Entries will be judged in three stages in accordance with the evaluation criteria provided by the judging panel. The ID numbers and translations of the five finalists will be announced on JAT website on January 18, 2008.
- The decision of the judges is final. There is no appeal or contesting of the results.
Awards in Detail
JAT will pay the following:
- Round trip economy travel from home to IJET by the most direct route.
- If traveling by train, "economy" includes a seat reservation, but excludes first class and sleeper fares.
- If traveling by personal vehicle (e.g., car), base mileage allowances (as defined by the relevant tax authority) plus parking expenses (for a maximum three nights at the hotel where the winner is staying) shall be paid.
- Hotel for three nights standard accommodation at or near the IJET venue.
- Receipts are required for all reimbursements.
- Travel arrangements and details will be discussed with the winners in advance of purchase.
The following are cause for disqualification.
- Incomplete application
- Entry received after the deadline
- Entry under someone else’s name, or work done by someone other than the contestant
- Dishonesty about one's qualifications
For further information please contact [email protected]
These terms are the official JAT policy with regards to the use of the JAT mailing lists (also see the JAT Bylaws, Section VII). See the FAQ for information on how to access the lists, manage your account, and send and receive email in English and Japanese.
Preface: What are the JAT mailing lists?
The JAT mailing lists are the official mailing lists of the Japan Association of Translators. Only paid-up members are allowed to use these lists.
1. What is the focus of the lists?
JAT-List ([email protected]) is the main mailing list for all JAT members. This list is for the discussion of issues related to translation and interpretation, whether they be about language, technology, trends in the industry, or how to translate 等.
Messages regarding JAT as an organization and matters concerning how JAT is (or should be) run are not suitable for this list. In the past members have complained about such messages, and some have left the mailing list in order to avoid these discussions.
2. What type of mail is appropriate?
Generally, the only restrictions are that your post should pertain to translation between Japanese and English for JAT-list. Please don't cross-post information from other lists or Usenet newsgroups unless it relates directly to discussion on the list. Since the list is concerned with the use of language, we sometimes do discuss crude language, but we still try to be polite about it.
We can discuss anything on the mailing lists as long as what is said is "true and fair". For example, we can say that Company XXX has not paid up promptly in the past, but not that Company XXX is the worst payer in existence.
2.1. Agency enquiries (JAT-list)
When requesting an agency check please give as many details as possible. There are two basic reasons for this:
- It will avoid possible confusion. There are a lot of agencies out there with the same or very similar sounding names.
- One agency could get a bad name and start up business under a new name. It has happened in the past. In this case knowing the address, telephone number, person in charge, etc may give us a hint.
And remember, when replying keep your comments fair and true. It is safest to stick to what you know first-hand and can back up with evidence. Someone who works for the agency in question may be on this list.
2.2. Use your full name
Contributors must include their full name, as registered with JAT, at the end of each post.
3. What type of mail is inappropriate?
3.1. Mail from companies:
Since these lists are for JAT members and only individuals can join JAT, even if you happen to be an employee of, for example, a translation company, please post in your name, not the company's name.
3.2 Personal attacks:
Discussion is welcome. Lively discussion can certainly be healthy but make certain that these discussions do not get personal. You can criticize a point of view all you like but do not turn this into an attack on the sender. If you wish to continue this kind of dialogue, please do it off-line.
3.3. Only members may post.
Many members share computers with work associates, spouses, family members. However, only JAT members may post to these lists.
4. Who is responsible for content?
This list is not "moderated" in that a post is ordinarily not screened before it is distributed to list members. Moderators do read the mail after it has been distributed; however, even they are not responsible for the content of a post.
As for responsibility for any defamatory comment (if it ever comes up), it lies with the person who made that comment *as long as the JAT-list Administrator has informed all subscribers to make comments which are true and fair*. As long as the JAT-list Administrator makes this point clear to all concerned, it will be considered that the JAT-list Administrator has taken *reasonable care* in ensuring that no defamation arises. Members are reminded of their responsibility in the footer at the bottom of each post.
5. Mailing list rules
Offenders will lose mailing privileges according to the following schedule:
First offense: 2 days to one week
Second offense: one week to one month
A third offense will bring an automatic review of the person's membership standing by the board.
Concerning the above
The severity of the penalty will be at the discretion of the the list administrator.
Obviously the timing of offenses is crucial. Although a second offense that occurs within days or weeks of a first offense will certainly incur a more severe penalty, a second offense 5 years after the first offense would not. Again this decision is at the discretion of the list administrator.