Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Big Changes Needed to Help Japan's Manufacturing Industry Bloom Again

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Big Changes Needed to Help Japan's Manufacturing Industry Bloom Again

Article excerpt

The revival of Japan's manufacturing industry hinges on improving productivity by using cutting-edge technologies, and how it can make progress in developing skilled personnel.

The government's fiscal 2014 white paper on manufacturing industries (monozukuri) analyzes the current state of manufacturing in Japan -- which is an industry under pressure to make reforms due to globalization and the growing use of information technology -- and issues that need to be addressed.

The manufacturing sector accounts for about 20 percent of Japan's gross domestic product. This is high compared with other advanced nations such as the United States, Britain and France, where the figure is around 10 percent.

Manufacturing industries that have created added value through imaginative ideas and technological innovations have played an important role as drivers of economic development in Japan, which has meager natural resources.

However, as the domestic market shrinks due to Japan's population decline, there has been a growing tendency for major manufacturers, such as automakers and electronics firms, to earn profits overseas. The shift of production bases to other nations is likely to continue.

According to the white paper, Japan is experiencing a fall in its working-age population, and the number of employees engaged in manufacturing has dropped to 10 million from 15 million 20 years ago. If these trends continue, Japan's manufacturing sector could fall into decline.

Domestically, manufacturers are beefing up their core functions, such as improving key plants and research and development programs. This is coupled with taking advantage of cheaper production costs abroad to boost profitability, and survive international competition. It is vital to clarify the division of roles to be played at home and overseas, and to carefully select and concentrate on promising projects. …

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