Thousands Of Job Openings Unfilled In Japan
Japan’s automakers face a problem not seen for a long time: Unfilled job openings. “Automakers and other manufacturers are struggling to fill positions at their domestic factories as they ramp up output to make up for production lost since the March 11 disaster,” says The Nikkei [sub].
And that while automakers threaten to leave because of the high yen. And intervention by Japan’s Central Bank brought the Japanese currency to 80 to the dollar, which is still considered way too high
Job placement agencies say labor shortages get worse by the day. Toyota and Honda are seen offering wages of 1,200 yen to 1,300 yen per hour ($15.30 to $16.60), unchanged from pre-2008 levels. Some job placement agencies say wage hikes are inevitable.
Two explanations are given for the sudden shortfall of able bodies.
1.) Surprise: A lot of manufacturers looking for a large number of workers at the same time.
2.) Laziness: Considering high jobless rates among the young, “the lack of desire for work amid generous unemployment benefits may be one of the reasons why manufacturers are having difficulty filling factory positions,” an executive at a staffing agency told The Nikkei.
Why Japanese companies do not move factories abroad? American companies would do it in heart-beat. It is a rhetorical question I actually know the answer. In my previous company we had a joint venture with one of Japanese big companies and wanted to open factory in China because it made more sense from financial point of view. But Japanese insisted the factory to be open only in Japan and under their full control. Later we sold our part to Japanese because it was lowering our profit margins. Japanese explained that they want to keep advanced technologies under control and it also helps engineers to be close to production and prefer to employ fellow citizens. Americans do not care about this romantic stuff and would rather let Chinese to steal technology and hurt fellow Americans and make quick buck.
I'm sorry, but Carlos Ghosn is working as hard as he can to move Nissan production out of Japan. Mazda said that a US dollar below 70 yen means no more Hiroshima plant, and Mitsubishi Motors' president said something similar. The Japanese don't want to move production out of Japan, but they feel they will be forced to do so.
As others have pointed out, Japan has a massive demographics problem. The population is rapidly aging, dying and shrinking. Just a few years ago, Japan was summarily sending migrant workers of Japanese descent back to Brazil and other countries when there was no work for them. How many of those workers or their associates want to go back to Japan as second class residents once again? Not very many I suspect. If demographics is indeed destiny, Japan is in for a very long and difficult road in the decades ahead.
Just as EPA regulations (even now dissed by auto "enthusiasts") forced manufacturers to really understand engines, resulting in 300 hp, 30 mpg Chevy V-6's better than the best of 1970 V-8's, the unskilled labor shortage in Japan will force them into advanced automation, resulting in a future competitive edge. This process will eventually result in no market for unskilled labor and a preciously small (and international) one for the skilled.