April 17, 2012

ELDERLY PEOPLE DIE OFF, THEY DON'T MAKE STUFF:

Declining as a Manufacturer, Japan Weighs Reinvention (MARTIN FACKLER, 4/16/12, NY Times)

The demise of Panel Bay is the latest sign of what many Japanese fear is the hollowing out of their heavily industrialized economy, which has been in a gradual but relentless decline since the bursting of its twin real estate and stock bubbles in the early 1990s. The decline is largely a result of growing competition from Asian rivals, an aging work force and merciless gains by the yen. But many officials and business leaders now fear that this trend has accelerated since last year's nuclear accident in Fukushima, which has raised the prospect of higher energy prices and even power failures.

"We already had a sense of crisis about the loss of manufacturing and manufacturing jobs," said Tetsuya Tanaka, a director of manufacturing promotion at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, or METI. "Now we are afraid the concerns about electricity could give manufacturers the excuse they need to move offshore."

The increased price pressures have wounded many of Japan's corporate giants. Last week, Sony -- the Apple-like innovator of the 1980s -- forecast a $6.4 billion loss amid reports it may cut 10,000 workers, a drastic step in a nation where layoffs are still seen as socially unacceptable. Even Japanese carmakers like Toyota, which last year handed back the title of world's largest auto company to General Motors after the supply disruptions from the tsunami, fear that they are becoming vulnerable to game-changing competition in electric cars or just lower-cost producers in South Korea and elsewhere.
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Posted by at April 17, 2012 6:23 AM
  

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