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Japan can increase its female workforce by about one million if it takes steps to improve the working environment for women raising children, the government said in its annual economic and fiscal white paper on Friday.  The white paper, submitted to the day's cabinet meeting by Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari, stressed the importance of encouraging women and elderly people to work in order to tackle the problem of a shrinking labor force, which has been constraining Japan's economic growth.


 
 
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Japanese education minister Hakubun Shimomura said Tuesday that the government plans to introduce an income limit for free preschool education for five-year-old children. Families with an annual income of less than 3.6 million yen are expected to be eligible for the free schooling from fiscal 2015, Shimomura said at a press conference.


 
 
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Sony's board is likely to reject a US hedge fund's proposal to spin off part of its profitable entertainment arm, a report said on August 01. Japan's leading Nikkei business daily said the company's directors discussed the idea on July 31 and were leaning towards turning the proposal down after reviewing a financial advisor report on the deal.  Some directors argued that Sony can compete better as a whole firm instead of hiving off part of the entertainment division, the Nikkei said without citing sources. 


 
 
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Abenomics (a portmanteau of Abe and economics) refers to the economic policies advocated by Shinzō Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan. Expectations for Abenomics have apparently shifted the economy into a positive cycle, as seen through increased personal spending, the gradual expansion of corporate production and an improvement in unemployment.


 
 
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Japanese consumer confidence improved in March to the highest level in almost six years, a Cabinet Office survey showed on Wednesday, indicating that aggressive government and central bank policies are having their desired effect. The survey's sentiment index for general households, which includes views on incomes and jobs, was 44.8 in March, which was the highest since May 2007. That was also up from a revised 44.2 in February. 


 
 
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Two of Japan's biggest steelmakers will formally merge on Monday, creating the world's second largest firm in the sector as they look to outpace their Chinese and South Korean rivals. Nippon Steel, the nation's number one steel company and third-ranked rival Sumitomo Metal Industries will combine to form a giant second only to India's ArcelorMittal.


 
 
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Advanced economies across the world grew by 0.6 per cent in the third quarter on a particularly strong showing of 1.5 per cent in Japan, the OECD says. This is broadly in line with recent data from other leading economic bodies, pointing to weak overall growth except in some still robust emerging economies.

 
 
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The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy on hold and gave a brighter assessment of the economy on Tuesday, encouraged by a rebound in factory output and increasing signs that the recovery from the devastating March earthquake is broadening. But the central bank warned that emerging nations faced a tough balancing act between curbing inflation and sustaining economic growth.


 
 
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Masayoshi Son, the CEO of Softbank, Inc. - Japan's exclusive carrier of Apple products - has taken the company in an unexpected direction this week. Softbank invested $62.5 million into Gilt Groupe, Inc., the online luxury retailer whose flash sale business model has brought it plenty of visibility and venture capital interest (although no profits yet). Softbank's investment earned it a 50% stake in Gilt Groupe Japan, the retailer's only international subsidiary.


 
 
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Japan's economy suffered a big blow in the triple earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, but the country should have no problem financing reconstruction, the central bank chief said. Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa conceded problems in the economic supply chain, power generation, tourism and other important sectors. But he said the financial system could cope.