Pesek on Asia: Japan's Worker Shortage

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Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:

Japan's chronic worker shortage.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had better get on with that immigration revolution he pledged in February. As the nation's population shrinks, so too does its pool of available workers and national competitiveness. That has Abe's party looking to start importing 200,000 foreign workers a year. As this Wall Street Journal reality-check piece explains, though, labor shortages are increasingly distorting the economy and complicating Abe's efforts to reenergize the nation of 126 million. Time to start stamping those work visas.

Cadbury's image problem with Muslims.

It's the rare business story that offends Muslims, corporate-governance activists and chocolate aficionados alike. In Jakarta, Indonesian authorities are testing Cadbury's products to see if they comply with Islamic standards. The inquiry comes after two of the British confectioner's chocolate varieties in Malaysia were found to be contaminated with pork DNA. Talk about a public-relations nightmare with nearly 2 billion of the world's consumers.

Is India's Modi a crony capitalist?

A day after Narendra Modi unveiled his 10-point blueprint to clean up India's economy, one of his biggest supporters scored a big corporate win that's raising eyebrows around the nation. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries bought the Indian partner of Viacom for $678 million to gain news and entertainment content for its new mobile phone company. New Delhi watchers have long wondered about the closeness between the two men, and now many fear conflicts of interests might emerge as Modi governs. Will Ambani's television news empire blatantly champion India's new prime minister in its coverage? Stay tuned.

The infinitely quotable Xi Jinping.

Xi Jinping might not be China's answer to Mark Twain, but speeches made by arguably the world's second-most powerful man are indeed worth collecting. The new, awkwardly-titled book "Excerpts of Xi Jinping's Remarks on Overall Deepening Reforms" is also an attempt to buttress the president's authoritarian image and enshrine his views. Peppered with such witticisms as, "We have to beware not to fall into the snare of division or Westernisation" and "We cannot ... use the excuse of reform for our own interests," who could resist?

North Korea's gesture may win Japanese largess.

Kim Jong Un did the unexpected yet again by agreeing to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the fate of more than a dozen Japanese citizens North Korea kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s. It's not about altruism, exactly. The gesture may prompt Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to lift some sanctions against North Korea and consider humanitarian aid for its impoverished economy. Still, an interesting turn of events by the world's most isolated regime.

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To contact the author on this story:
Willie Pesek at

To contact the editor on this story:
Nisid Hajari at