Japan’s Difficult Choice Between Its Economy and the Pandemic (Podcast)

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The Tokyo Summer Olympics are barely more than a month away, and workers are preparing a converted national stadium for the opening ceremony. But what should be an opportunity for Japan to recharge its economy and attract tourists back is instead a cause for concern for its 126 million people. In this week’s podcast, Tokyo-based business reporter Yuko Takeo delves into Japan’s decision to promote the Olympic Games. Then host Stephanie Flanders talks to Paris business reporter William Horobin about the Group of Seven’s landmark corporate tax treaty, and US business reporter Olivia Rockeman talks to Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom about why the work-from-home revolution is affecting the workplace could worsen inequality.

Originally, many Japanese had hoped the Olympics could match or even improve on the 1964 Games, which demonstrated the country’s growing manufacturing power and led to the development of its heralded bullet trains. Now, after a year of delay, the main concern is to strengthen tourism. But the pandemic is still overshadowing everything: more than 80% of the Japanese are against hosting the Olympics, with their biggest fear being that it will become a super-spread event. Still, for Japan’s leaders, canceling the Games would be tantamount to declaring that they have lost control of the pandemic.

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