Even the Japanese Now Say U.S. Workers Are More Productive

By Sherwood Ross 1996, Reuters News Service | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

Even the Japanese Now Say U.S. Workers Are More Productive


Sherwood Ross 1996, Reuters News Service, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


This Labor Day, American workers can take pride in the fact that while their wages are not the highest in the world, their productivity is.

American workers came under attack four years ago when a Japanese politician called them "illiterate" and "lazy," igniting a trans-Pacific war of words. But some of the biggest boosters of American workers today are managers of Japanese-owned companies doing business in the United States.

"Generally speaking, we think the productivity of American workers is as good as Japanese workers," said Kenjiro Ishihara, vice president of consumer electronics maker Toshiba America Inc. in New York. "American workers are really terrific," said Teruko Secor at Fujisankei Communications International, which employs news researchers. "They work as hard as can be. You can see they really love their job, not just a means of making money." At ceramics maker Kyocera America in San Diego, vice president and plant manager Eiji Tanaka said, "If you have clear goal-setting, it does n't make any difference" (where you manufacture). Productivity of Kyocera's U.S. workers, he said, "is comparable to workers in Japan." "The culture of Japanese and American workers is very different," said Christopher Poland, project leader for Honda's Acura CL plant in East Liberty, Ohio, who has also managed work teams in Japan. "But I don't see any big difference between (them) in terms of productivity." "A human being can only work so fast and so hard in so many hours," Poland said. "I've worked in our facilities in Thailand, Malaysia, and Mexico and I don't think there's any difference in the work ethic," said Honda senior manager Steve Bishop. Not all Japanese executives agree, and there are arguments to back the opinions of both sides, experts said. Isao Matsmaru, executive vice president of TDK Ferrite Corp., a maker of magnets in Shawnee, Okla., said U.S. workers' productivity is "not so bad" but that Japanese workers' was "much higher" because of their "belief in the company." William Lewis, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, part of the global consulting firm, said, "On aggregate, the U.S. has the most productive work force in the world. …

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