Japan threatened with labor shortage

Oct. 31, 2006

Intensifying competition from nearby China and a declining birth rate are threatening Japan with a worker shortage that could chip away at its craftsmanship tradition, reports the Associated Press. In addition, Japanese companies struggle to attract younger Japanese because the group tends to look down upon production work as dirty, dangerous and tough.
According to the Japanese government Statistics Bureau, the number of people employed in manufacturing has dwindled from about 15 million in 1990 down to 12 million. Conversely, jobs in retail and services grew.
Politicians, intellectuals and educators say the younger Japanese are growing more like their Western counterparts in job-hopping and seeking dot-com riches. Workmanship that comes from years of on-the-job experience is being lost as more youngsters opt for white-collar work, says an official from a Japanese government training program focusing on manufacturing.
To stave off the manufacturing worker shortage, Japan has initiated a national campaign hinged on the word "monozukuri," which means "making things." This includes not only industrial production but also arts and crafts and other activities that involve working with one's hands.
The government started the campaign last year and has earmarked funds to several robotics, nanotechnology, genome and other technology projects.