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Japan on its way to be the world

Japan On Its Way To Be The World's Largest Economy

Japan has performed a miracle. The country's economic performance

following its crushing defeat in World War II is nothing short of astounding.

The economic expansion of Japan is second to none. All of the elements are in

place for Japan to continue increasing its share of the world's wealth as

America's gradually declines. The country is on track to becoming the world's

largest economy. How did Japan do it? There are many theories and studies that

have traced the Japanese miracle without success. The answer to the mystery can

be found by examining Japan's culture, education, and employment system. Japan's

success is not just a case of good technique and technology in business, but a

real recognition and development of the necessary human skills.

A better understanding of the Japanese society provides the framework to

understanding the workings of Japanese business (and possibly the Japanese

mind.) The ways of the Japanese provide a foundation for their economic

adaptability in modern times. Japan is a culture where human relations and

preservation of harmony are the most important elements in society. "It is

their sense of identity and destiny which gives their industrial machine its

effectiveness."1 "Among the Japanese, there exists an instinctive respect for

institutions and government, for the rules of etiquette and service, for social

functions and their rituals of business. Japan is a traditionally crowded island,

the people are forced to share the limited space with each other and to live in

harmony.. The Japanese are very protective of their culture. They are very

conservative to outside intrusion. Their distinctive ways are a source of pride

and national strength."2 Japan's striving for purity is very different form a

North American idea of open doors and diversity as strength. Japan is relatively

closed to immigration to outside countries. However, this feeling of superiority

does not stop them from being careful. "This is probably because the Japanese

know their economic house is on shaky ground, literally. Japan is eternally at

nature's mercy, vulnerable to the sea that surrounds it, to earthquakes of the

soil beneath it and a real shortage of raw materials, particularly food and

fuel."3 A period of extended isolation could be disastrous to the country.

Japan's trade surplus is its only generator of wealth. This is a fact of life

that is preached through the media and taught constantly to Japanese throughout

their lives in school, from parents, and when they enter the working world. The

message is clear: Japan is always vulnerable, we must protect her. "Obsessed

with national character, the Japanese are proud and ambitious, constantly

measuring themselves against the world's best and biggest. Accordingly, one of

the main sources of Japan's strength is its people's willingness to sacrifice,

to be regimented and homogenized, and to subordinate personal desires to the

harmony of the working group."4 The Japanese people have had to become a group-

oriented society. While in the western world, individuality and independence are

highly valued, Japanese society emphasizes group activity and organization. The

people accept that they will belong to one social group and work for one company

for life. The crowded island conditions have driven society to value conformity.

"The highest priority is placed on WA, or harmony."5 The Japanese have learned

to share their limited space and value the precious distance between themselves

and others. The culture that Japanese people are brought up in causes them to

recognize that they have to work together to succeed. Only harmony will provide

improvement. This development of the human nature and attitude relates directly

to Japan's business practice and provides a basis for good business relations.

Japan's education system has grabbed the world's attention as it is

specifically designed to teach the children skills and aptitudes to give them an

edge in the business world. "The educational system, based on the principle of

full equality of educational opportunity, is widely recognized as having greatly

contributed to the prosperity of Japan by providing a highly qualified work

force supplemented by extensive intraining programs by many of the major

employers."6 "The primary and secondary educational system is probably the most

comprehensive and most disciplined in the world."7 Where North American students

attend school 175 days a year, Japanese students attend 240 days. . Japanese

students attend elementary and secondary school six days a week and for two

months longer each year than North American students. In addition, they have

long hours of homework. A large majority of Japanese students attend juku, or

preparatory schools, in the evenings and on Sundays. In higher education, while

lacking the strong University system which exists in North America, the

curriculum is equally rigorous, and "Japan is graduating 75 000 engineers per

year, 3 000 more than the U.S., from a University population one fifth the

size."8 "The education system itself is a unifying force. It molds children

into group oriented beings by demanding uniformity and conformity form the

earliest ages. The attainment of excellence within this complex environment, and

the importance it holds for one's future is stressed early."9 This emphasis

places a great burden on the young to perform well in school an to earn

admittance to high status universities. The public school system not only

produces good, obedient citizens, it produces good workers. A willingness to

give oneself to the corporation's best interest, to arrive early and stay late,

and to produce good work are attributes learned in the Japanese schools. Those

who cannot learn these skills do not do well in school or do not rise in the

ranks of the corporate world. The education system is an excellent example of

how the Japanese recognize and develop the necessary human skills that are

needed in society and stressed in the business world..

One of the most important aspects of Japan's successful economics is the

countries employment system. The system is very complex and has many hidden but

powerful aspects that help Japan maximize its output. The system's three main

principles of lifetime employment, company unions, and seniority pay, work

together to form a system worthy of notice. "The system is based on

comprehensive labour regulation, and it has been consciously invented as Japan's

answer to a Western labour system that Japanese leaders have long believed is

inappropriate for an advanced economy."10 "The whole system is based around a

people-centered management. Japanese companies undertake their annual hiring of

recent graduates expecting all the people they hire to work with them until

retirement."11 Lifetime employment is often regarded as a key factor behind

Japan's industrial success. Yet, "lifetime employment as practiced in Japan is

no more than a general guiding principle. It is by no means a guarantee and only

the large companies can afford to assure employment."12 The obvious value of

such a system is the sense of stability it presents. But there are many

advantages to such a system. "Consider how valuable the lifetime employment

system is in winning worker cooperation for the introduction of productivity

enhancing new technologies. Japanese workers see no downside risk in helping

their employers improve productivity, they embrace new technology knowing it

will enhance their company's future and their own jobs. Workers can then be

reassigned to different work, typically making improved products."13 "The

American hire-and-fire system sets works and managers against each other over

new technology. American workers are suspicious of new technology because

employers often use such technology to cut jobs. If a company is to innovate, it

must train its workers to handle ever more sophisticated tasks."14 "Here again

the Japanese labour system provides Japanese employers with a vital advantage in

that they can undertake expensive training programs knowing they will enjoy a

good return on the investment."15 By contrast, American employers see such

training as a risk because the workers are free to take their skills to rival

employers. Japanese management is also a major source of Japan's success. "A

Japanese manager knows that the decisions he makes today remain permanently on

his record and he may be asked to account for them many years down the road. He

cannot simply sweep problems away. The company's long term success always has to

be on the mind of the manager."16 "The lifetime employment system also enables

Japanese corporations to groom prospective executives for many years." The

managers know that the path to success is to dedicate themselves single-

mindedly to the success of their companies. The lifetime employment system

contributes greatly to raising employees' desire to work and to fostering

loyalty and commitment to the company."17 The merits of the Japanese employment

system are endless. The healthy relations provide a basis for growth. All the

aspects of the employment system develop skills necessary for a stable company.

Ever since the Tokyo stock market entered a period of decline in 1990,

the Western press has attacked aspects of Japan's economics and portrayed Japan

as in an economic slump. Westerners endlessly attack the Japanese employment

system. It is true that the system was supposed to make workers fiercely

dedicated to their employers, but it prevented Japanese companies from cutting

the size of the work force in hard times. "While Canadian companies emerged from

the recession leaner and more competitive, Japanese firms stagnated."18 The

argument is always the same: as the world economy "globalizes", Japanese

corporations are being drawn into increasingly head-to-head competition with

Western counterparts and face extinction if they do not adopt the "more

efficient" Western system of employment. This argument was "never more

insistent than in the recession of the early 1990's"19, but, as on previous

occasions, the Japan Employment system triumphantly silenced its critics by

emerging from the recession as strong as ever. Westerners cut jobs to increase

profits, the Japanese cut profits to increase jobs. Western critics also attack

the Japanese education system. "Although often noted for their rigor and high

test results, the school system is seen as presenting a dark side with

conservatism and conformity."20 A modern economy is argued to "need creative

thinkers willing to take risks, which Japan's schools are not producing."21 This

may be true as Japan has a history of copying Western products detail by detail.

The lack of creativity is dismissed by the Japanese. They feel that "copying is

common sense. Relieved of the burden of having to come up with original designs,

Japanese manufacturers can concentrate all their creative talents on the far

more economically effective task of beating Western rivals in productivity."22

The school systems are producing thinkers and problem solvers. All of these

attacks are underestimating the power of the Japanese. Is it an economic slump

when "in the first four years of this decade, Japanese exports soared by 32

percent, the yen rose 27 percent, and Japanese employers created 3.2 million new

jobs. Japan is not crumbling, it has now surpassed the U.S. to become the

world's largest manufacturing economy and is ready to claim the lion's share of

the world's growth."23

Attacks on Japan's ways are countless. Obviously there are many problems

with the way they run their country. Yet, no one can ignore the economic success

that Japan has had. The roots of the success can be traced back to the skills

developed through culture and education, and the healthy attitudes developed by

the Japanese employment system. The Western world could learn much from what

makes the Japanese successful in business. It is not just a case of adopting

Japanese techniques and technology but of recognizing and developing the

necessary human skills. The East has borrowed heavily from the West in improving

its business performance; the West could also take note of the lessons of

Japanese history and culture and consider applying them in its own organizations.

Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/japan-on-its-way-to-be-the-world.php



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