The Medium-Term Forecast for Japanese Industry
and the Challenges it Must Face:

Improving Japan's Quality of Life and Ensuring Full Employment Through Structural Economic Reform


  1. The collapse of Japan's economic prosperity and "bubble economy" was followed by a serious recession which resulted from a series of events: Asset deflation, including plunging stock and land prices; non-performing assets of financial institutions; and the steep appreciation of the yen. As a result, the economic growth rate for the last three years has been approximately zero.

    When the government declared that the economy had bottomed out in 1993, Keidanren countered that as far as its corporate managers were concerned, the bottom had not yet been reached. And although the yen has recently returned to a rate of approximately 100 yen to the dollar, it is still very high and as a result, financial insecurity continues. Corporate managers are still unable to get rid of their feeling of insecurity about the future and the employment situation is worsening with unemployment rising and new graduates finding it difficult to find employment. There is fear that employment unrest will surface unless quick action is taken to revitalize the economy.

  2. The key factor that is eroding the foundation of the Japanese economy, along with economic stagnation, is the "hollowing-out" phenomenon that has hit all sectors including manufacturing, financial services, transportation, high-technology, human resources and telecommunications. In manufacturing in particular, even as the industry has reached maturity, production is being increasingly transferred overseas due appreciation of the yen and the lure of business opportunities within developing Asian nations. Unless our industries continue to become more sophisticated and new industries and businesses are continually created, we cannot expect future economic growth, employment security or an improved quality of life for the Japanese people. With the reality of an aging society just around the corner, it is no exaggeration to say that the Japanese economy stands at the crossroads of sustained prosperity or continued economic decline.

  3. The main reason our nation today faces structural economic challenges is that bureaucracy-led, centralized authoritarian social system, begun in the Meiji Era (1867-1912), has come to a dead-end. The Japanese economic system of "catch-up with and surpass the West", did in fact allow us to reach our original target in economic terms. However, today the nation has entered a period of historic change that demands innovation and creativity in every sector, and the old system has become a hindrance. Regulation in particular has led to excessive intervention by the government in the functioning of the economy and would serve as an effective means for industry to preserve only vested interests. The result has been obstruction of change and reform.

    The U.S. economy, which experienced the hollowing-out of its industries in the 1980s, recovered its vitality by means of comprehensive deregulation and major reductions in both corporate and personal income tax rates. An example of the success of these reforms can be seen in the fact that the U.S. boasts an overwhelmingly competitive edge in the information and telecommunications sector, which is forecast to be the leading industry of the 21st century.

    To accomplish economic recovery and reach mid-term structural reform, we must clearly delineate the path which our nation's industries should follow and the challenges that need to be overcome to reach our goal.

  4. In order to chart this course, Keidanren has established a Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Industrial Affairs to study the changing industrial environment, how business should manage change, what form the industrial structure should take, and what policy decisions need to be made. Interviews with leaders of each industrial sector formed the basis of this study, conducted to provide guidance for our member firms.

    In addition, the subcommittee used a long-term macroeconomic model, inter-industry relations table and created a forecast of Japan's industrial structure in the year 2010.

  5. This study was designed and executed with the goal of exploring the issue of industrial structure, specifically. Other critical issues mentioned in the report -- the non-performing assets problem, the tax system, development of new industries and businesses -- are being studied by relevant committees. Keidanren is as well currently drafting Keidanren's Vision for the Year 2020. This report provides a foundation for the Vision's medium-term prospects of Japanese industrial structure.

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