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. Domestic and International Change Makes Reform Necessary

The Japanese economy went through a period of high-growth, overcame two oil crises through all-out national efforts and then moved into a period of stable growth. Now, just 50 years after the end of WW II, the Japanese economy is facing its greatest postwar change in its economic environment. The key changes that business now faces are as follows:

  1. Globalization of the Economy
  2. (abridged)

  3. Development of the Asian Economy
  4. (abridged)

  5. Development of the Telecommunications Network
  6. (abridged)

  7. The High-Cost Structure of the Economy
  8. In this era of mega-competition, the costs of doing business, not only those related to production but to all other areas including marketing, distribution and telecommunications, will be a more significant factor than ever before in international competition. Despite the fact that the Japanese per capita income is exceptionally high in comparison to the world standard, our consumers do not feel affluent. This is due to the fact that prices in Japan are very high and the disparity in domestic and overseas prices is great. A key reason for the high cost of living is government regulations. The appreciation of the yen and the rapid progress of globalization is making the Japanese people realize, at this late date, that theirs is a "high-cost" economy.

    Japan's high-cost economy is due in part to the government's bureaucratic system, which includes 10,000 regulations and imposes the world's highest corporation tax, in part to corporate practices, such as uniquely Japanese business practices, like Keiretsu, and in part to Japanese consumer preferences for very high quality products and for comprehensive protective regulations.

    As for corporate practices, businesses are making all-out efforts to reform in order to survive the mega-competition of global business. Consumers, it would appear, have become even more demanding in respect to quality, performance and price. Regarding the government bureaucracy, however, reform is not making much headway, due to the formidable "wall" of vested interests.

    Moreover, despite the progress in "price smashing" in the marketplace in response to the recession, public utility rates are increased. Under these circumstances, Japanese as well as foreign firms are moving financial, telecommunications and transportation bases out of Japan into other Asian nations to escape the high costs of doing business and of regulations. And Asian corporations are listing their stock not in Tokyo -- but in New York. It is so-called "Japan-passing" phenomenon.

  9. Change in Japanese Employment Practices
  10. As the transfer of production overseas continues, ensuring full employment opportunity has become a problem. Stable, long-term employment and the seniority wage system were at one time considered to be the source of Japan's competitive industrial power. However, these "traditions" have made the cost of human resources a heavy burden due to the rapid aging of society, and they are beginning to undermine Japan's international competitiveness. It is a true that the Japanese-style employment system benefits society by reducing tensions that could arise from unemployment and has stabilized society and made the Japanese people feel secure.

    However, the rigidity of the personnel system deprives individuals of the chance to make a new start in their careers, and, on the national level, restricts the movement of human resources into potential high-growth industries. This rigidity is preventing Japan's mature economy from creating new industries and businesses and from revitalizing the society through the restructuring of the industrial base. On the other hand, however, there are signs that perceptions and attitudes regarding employment are becoming more diverse, particularly among the younger generation.

  11. Stagnation of the Credit and Capital Markets
  12. (abridged)

  13. Addressing Global Environmental Issues
  14. Industrialization, population growth, and the consequent increase in energy and resource consumption have, in turn, sharply increased the impact on the global environment. Problems in the environment, such as global warming and waste disposal, are becoming far more serious than the problem of limited natural resources. There is international agreement that all nations must adhere to standards of global behavior that are sustainable under the limitations of resources and the environment. The key concepts are "sustainable development" and "realization of an ecological society". The task facing the global community is the reform of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal -- all of which have characterized modern civilization until now.

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