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News & Updates

Results of JETRO’s 2018 Survey on Business Conditions of Japanese Companies in Asia and Oceania

Feb 13, 2019

Business confidence remaining strong

From October to November 2018, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) conducted its latest survey on the business conditions of Japanese companies in 20 countries and regions in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Oceania. The results are as follows.

Survey outline

Method Questionnaire
Period From October 9 to November 9, 2018
Destination of questionnaire Japanese-affiliated companies active in a total of 20 countries and regions including five Northeast Asian countries and regions, nine Southeast Asian countries, four Southwest Asian countries and two Oceanian countries. (Valid responses came from 5,073 firms with a valid response rate of 37.8%.)
Question items 1. Operating profit forecast, 2. Future business plan, 3. Management matters, 4. Rising costs of production and services, 5. Procurement of raw materials and parts, 6. Exports/imports, 7. Utilization of digital technology, and 8. Wages

Key points of the results

  1. Business confidence of Japanese-affiliated firms continuing to improve
  2. Intention to expand business remaining strong in Southeast/Southwest Asia and China
  3. Increased wages remaining to be the biggest operational issue, while the business environment has been improving
  4. Manufacturing: Local procurement rate has been increasing, mainly in India
  5. Proportions of firms utilizing FTAs/EPAs marking a record high for imports
  6. Consideration of the use of advanced digital technology on a medium- to long-term basis

Summery points

1. Business confidence of Japanese-affiliated firms continuing to improve

  • Over 40% of the companies expect their operating profits to improve (from the previous year) for 2019, as they did for 2018. Companies predicting a downturn for 2019 came to 10.6%, a decrease of 10 percentage points (pp) from the outlook for 2018 (20.6%).
  • The diffusion index (DI) in 2019, which is the proportion of businesses reporting increased operating profits minus those reporting decreased operating profits compared to the previous year, marked 36.7 points, an 13.1-point increase compared with 2018. Among reasons for improvement, “Sales increase in local markets" was the most-frequently cited, followed by “Improvement of production efficiency” and “Sales increase due to export expansion.”
  • Companies expecting operating profits for 2018 to be a surplus accounted for 68.1%, a 0.7 pp increase from the 2017 survey (67.4%). Those expecting a deficit came to 17.9%, a 0.4 pp decrease from the 2017 survey (18.3%).

2. Intention to expand business remaining strong in Southeast/Southwest Asia and China

  • Among respondents, 55.1% expect to expand business in the next one or two years, which is a 1.4 pp increase from 2017 (53.7%). In China, “Expansion” accounted for 48.7%, and the proportion has been increasing since it recovered to 40% in 2016. The proportion of companies that selected “Reduction” or “Transferring to a third country/region or withdrawal from current local markets” was 6.6%, which was the lowest in the five years after 2013. In ASEAN, “Expansion” increased by 1.7 pp to 57.4%. The proportion has been increasing since 2015.
  • Comparing the rate of “Expansion” between ASEAN and China, ASEAN has consistently come out on top since 2012, when China showed a sudden decline. Though the gap expanded to 16.1 pp in 2015, it decreased to 7.4 pp in 2017 and to 8.7 pp in 2018.
  • Companies in Bangladesh (73.2%), India (72.8%), Myanmar (72.1%), and Vietnam (69.8%) are more willing to expand their businesses.

3. Increased wages remaining to be the biggest operational issue, while the business environment has been improving

  • Among operational issues, while “Increased wages“was most commonly cited, at 65.9%, the proportion decreased by 0.8 pp from the 2017 survey. By country and region, the proportion exceeded 70% in Indonesia (78.2%), China (75.7%), Vietnam (73.0%), India (72.3%), and Cambodia (70.9%). In Cambodia, however, the proportion improved by 11.9 pp from 82.8% in 2017.
  • Regarding the average rate of increase in wages for all industries on a year-on-year basis for 2019, the rate was the highest in Pakistan (10.0%), followed by Bangladesh (9.6 %), India (9.6 %), Sri Lanka (8.1 %), and Myanmar (7.6 %). The top three countries were the same as those in 2017. In China, the rate has been slowing down by single digits since 2013 and is predicted to decline to 5.9% in 2019.

4. Manufacturing: Local procurement rate increasing, mainly in India

  • Material costs accounted for approximately 60% of local production.
  • When asked about how they planned to reduce material cost, 64.5% of the companies answered with “Raising the local procurement rate in the operating country/region.” The proportion of companies that answered with “Raising the rate of procurement from Japan” decreased to 7.7% from the 2017 survey (13.7%). By contrast, the proportion of companies that answered with “Raising the rate of procurement from ASEAN” increased to 25.5% from the 2017 survey (22.8%).
  • Looking at the results by country and region, the local procurement rate was higher in China (66.3%) and New Zealand (65.0%). In particular, the rate reached 71.4% in China’s Motor vehicles/Motorcycles industry.
  • The local procurement rate increased from 2013 in Southwest Asia (India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Myanmar. In India, in particular, the rate increased to 55.6% in 2018 from 43.4% in 2013.

5. Proportions of firms utilizing FTAs/EPAs marking a record high for imports

  • Almost half (48.3%) of all firms are utilizing FTAs/EPAs. In particular, the proportions of utilizing FTAs/EPAs marked a record high for imports at 48.4%. Looking at the results by company size, its rate was higher among large enterprises (51.1%) than SMEs (43.9%). 10.3% of all SMEs answered that they were considering the utilization of FTAs/EPAs, suggesting a potential expansion of FTA/EPA users.
  • To a new question asking whether there are “non-tariff measures,” more than half of the companies answered with “Yes” in Indonesia (64.9%), Myanmar (53.3%), and Laos (50.0%). By type of measure, “Import restrictions” (18.9%) and “Standards and conformity assessment systems” (15.3%) were most commonly cited.

6. Consideration of the use of advanced digital technology on a medium- to long-term basis

  • Major digital technologies that are being utilized in local business are “Cloud” (27.4%), “E-commerce (EC)” (14.3%), and “Robots” (10.2%).
  • Major digital technologies that are being considered for use in the medium-to-long term (about five to 10 years) are IoT (24.7%) and “Artificial Intelligence (AI)” (20.3%), indicating that firms are considering the utilization of more advanced digital technologies. Looking at the results by industry, in general, manufacturing companies are considering the use of IoT and robots, while non-manufacturing companies are willing to utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • As the reason/background factor for utilizing digital technology, 51.5% of the firms answered with “It is our company’s policy, or decision, that digitization is necessary.” In New Zealand, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, and Singapore, etc., where digital technologies were adopted earlier than other countries/regions, customer needs and rivals that adopted or began utilizing digital technologies earlier were frequently cited.

China and North Asia Division, JETRO
Mr. Toshihiro Mizutani
Tel: 03-3582-5181

Asia and Oceania Division, JETRO
Mr. Hiroyuki Nitta
Tel: 03-3582-5179