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Japan: Time to Trim the Fat

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By Chris Gunn

APMCP Year 15 Online

 Japans economic woes are at the focus of a great deal of attention. As the worlds second largest economy, it is under scrutiny by the media, with many world leaders and economic experts providing analysis. One area that has not been explored at length is the inefficiencies of labour that are commonplace throughout Japan. Although they are the most technologically efficient countries in the region, there is little effort to use their human resources the same way.

One hears about a currency exchange office involving five employees in a simple transaction, an elementary school with one student, or women in Osaka hired simply to bow to customers entering the store. When pressed to justify these inefficiencies, the Japanese respond that there is a need to provide everyone in the society with some kind of role or job, and that it is sometimes necessary for inefficiencies if it maintains the harmony of society. Economies of scale, and even common sense do not seem to factor into the equation. What the Japanese fail to realize is that this approach worked ten years ago during a phase of high economic growth. However, given the current financial difficulties, and competition from the region, it is time for Japan to shift their collective mentality to creating an economy with efficiencies in human resources that match their educational capabilities and technical prowess, and give Japan the economic boost and competitive advantage that it needs.

This will mean huge layoffs, changes to the way people life, a need for some people to work more effectively, or change positions to work in jobs that contribute more to the economys effectiveness.  Although these changes will cause short-term crisis and disharmony, it could be a key factor in returning Japan to the position of undisputed leader in Asia.

Chris Gunn

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