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Japan Needs to Telework. Its Paper-Pushing Offices Make That Hard.
By Ben Dooley and Makiko Inoue

Officially, Shuhei Aoyama has been teleworking for a month. But that doesn’t mean he can avoid going to the office.

Several times a week, Aoyama makes a half-hour commute across Tokyo for a task seemingly more suited to the age of the samurai than of the supercomputer: stamping his official corporate seal on business contracts and government paperwork.

The stamps, known as hanko or inkan, are used in place of signatures on the stream of documents that fill Japan’s workplaces, including the hotel network that employs Aoyama. They have become a symbol of a hidebound office culture that makes it difficult or impossible for many Japanese to work from home even as the country’s leaders say working remotely is essential to keeping Japan’s coronavirus epidemic from spiraling out of control.

While the world may see Japan as a futuristic land of humanoid robots and intelligent toilets, inside its offices, managers maintain a fierce devotion to paper files, fax machines, business card exchanges and face-to-face meetings.

Essential documents are not digitized, and computer systems are obsolete and tied to offices. Middle managers in Japan’s team-oriented workplaces are hesitant to allow employees to work from home, with some fearful that they will slack off or even drink on the job. And the workers who do have the option of teleworking fear harm to their careers.

Forced to balance the needs of the office and the risks to their own health, employees like Aoyama, 26, say they are losing patience with the country’s work traditions.

In other countries where people are staying home to limit the spread of the virus, many white-collar workers have made a fairly routine shift to Zoom videoconferences and electronic document signing. But in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, the sudden need for social distancing has caught companies off guard.

“Many organizations that were not ready, not prepared, are being forced to do telework, which is causing lots of trouble,” said Kunihiko Higa, a telework expert at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

“Many internal rules require face-to-face meetings,” Higa added. “They think they can’t manage workers who are not there.”

A survey last month by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism found that fewer than 13% of workers nationwide were able to work from home. Over 70% reported difficulties with telework.

“Japanese companies, a lot of them, are set up on the premise that you’re all going to be in the same place,” said Rochelle Kopp, a consultant who specializes in Japanese business practices. “Even if you have a laptop, you can’t always take it home. There are a lot of software and hardware issues.”



說文解字看新聞 莊蕙嘉


遠距工作(teleworkwork remotely)和在家上班(work from homeWFH)意思相近但不完全相同,telework著重於「不在辦公室上班」,也就是work outside of a traditional office environment,例如在家裡、咖啡館、客戶辦公室等公司以外的其他場所處理公事。

work from home則單純指在家工作,也是比較通俗的片語,所以可以說在家上班是遠距上班的一種。另外,telework有更強調以科技輔助工作的意味,例如使用電腦、視訊軟體等。

文中的hankoinkan是日語「印章」及「印鑑」的羅馬拼音。如同台灣,日本也有依賴蓋章的習慣,和西方以簽名為準的文化不同,這也是日本推動遠距上班的困難之一,paper pusher就用來形容花太多時間在紙上作業的人,也有暗諷只做文書這類較不重要工作的意味。

Study Sees ‘Cliff Edge’ Of Die-Offs Over Climate
氣候變遷 將使野生動物驟然消亡
By Catrin Einhorn

Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published last month in Nature.

The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife but also for the humans who depend on it.

“For a long time things can seem OK, and then suddenly they’re not,” said Alex L. Pigot, a scientist at University College London and one of the study’s authors. “Then, it’s too late to do anything about it because you’ve already fallen over this cliff edge.”

The latest research adds to an already bleak picture for the world’s wildlife unless urgent action is taken to preserve habitats and limit climate change. More than 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because of the myriad ways humans are changing the Earth by farming, fishing, logging, mining, poaching and burning fossil fuels.

The study looked at more than 30,000 species on land and in water to predict how soon climate change would affect population levels and whether those levels would change gradually or suddenly. To answer these questions, the authors determined the hottest temperature that a species is known to have withstood and then predicted when that temperature would be surpassed around the world under different emissions scenarios.

When they examined the projections, the researchers were surprised that sudden collapses appeared across almost all species fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals and across almost all regions.

If greenhouse gas emissions remain on current trajectories, the research showed that abrupt collapses in tropical oceans could begin in the next decade. Coral bleaching events over the last several years suggest that these losses have already started, the scientists said. Collapse in tropical forests, home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, could follow by the 2040s.

But if global warming was held to below 2 degrees Celsius, the number of species exposed to dangerous climate change would drop by 60%. That, in turn, would limit the number of ecosystems exposed to catastrophic collapse to about 2%.

The study does not take into account other factors that could help or hurt a species’ survival. For example, some species may tolerate or adapt to higher temperatures; on the other hand, if their food sources could not, they would die off just the same.



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