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Some kids are alright

UNICEF released a report today on the well-being of children in the world's wealthiest countries. According to the results, kids in the Netherlands top the list, followed by those from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. As noted in this morning's Brief, the worst off are those from Britain (and the U.S.), behind children from Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Taking a look at the the 21 member countries of the OECD, the survey looks at six dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people's own subjective sense of well-being. By those dimensions, pretty much all OECD children are doing OK, compared to those from developing countries. You gotta have food on the table in the first place, if you're going to sit down for a meal with your family.

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Yakuza gangsters get flex time

japanese businessmen
Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP

Japanese business innovations have been widely recognized and mimicked since the Meiji restoration and beyond, especially throughout Japan's "economic miracle" period from the 1950s through the 1980s. In addition to introducing kaizen as a business philosophy, Japan has also produced some of the most successful (and controversial) development strategies through its keiretsu system. Perhaps Japan's most notable contribution to management is the "just-in-time" method of supply chain planning, first developed by Toyota in the 1970s and since adopted by firms all over the globe. But we're not just talking about legitimate companies here.

Japan's mafia, the yakuza, has been reflecting Japanese business trends for years now, while adding its own innovations along the way. The yakuza are Japan's trend setters in labor force flexibility, with the number of part-time yakuza has now overtaking regular employees. While the trend toward part-time employees has made it easier for all types of businesses to control costs and retain profits, it's perfect for yakuza members who need to engage in legal business activities as a cover.

So what can we expect next? Increasing business consolidation. The Yamaguchi syndicate, the largest yakuza gang, has recently embarked upon a wave of "hostile takeovers" that have given it control over 47 percent of all Japanese mobsters. In the business world, Japan's Fair Trade Commission blocks mergers that result in a market share above 35 percent. It is now considering increasing that figure to 50 percent, demonstrating once again that the yakuza is right in step with the business community.