SHRINKING ECONOMIES

Some forty years ago, Japan took the World by Economic Storm.  No longer the bastion of second-class products, referred to as “Made in Japan”.   Almost overnight, it made the jump to high-end exports–SONY, TOYOTA, OLYMPUS, etc.  Japanese indusrtry came into vogue in books on managment with such a concepts as more day-to-day interaction between senior exeucitives and assembly-line workers, and “Just in Time” inventories.  They seemed to have re-written the book.

Fast forward to today and Japan clearly has some serious problems:  a decaying economy; competition from other Asian Countries that are following it’s formula (modified to the particular culture) and an aging work force.

The linked article, “Japan Shrinks”, by Nicholas Eberstadt, from The Wilson Quarterly, points the Japnese problem out and provides some resources for additional research.

Japan Shrinks

by Nicholas Eberstadt

Many nations have aging populations, but none can quite match Japan. Its experience holds lessons for other countries as well as insights into the distinctiveness of Japanese society.

In 2006, Japan reached a demographic and social turning point. According to Tokyo’s official statistics, deaths that year very slightly outnumbered births. Nothing like this had been recorded since 1945, the year of Japan’s catastrophic defeat in World War II. But 2006 was not a curious perturbation. Rather, it was the harbinger of a new national norm.

Japan is now a “net mortality society.” Death rates today are routinely higher than birthrates, and the imbalance is growing. The nation is set to commence a prolonged period of depopulation. Within just a few decades, the number of people living in Japan will likely decline 20 percent. The Germans, who saw their numbers drop by an estimated 700,000 in just the years from 2002 to 2009, have a term for this new phenomenon: schrumpfende Gesellschaft, or “shrinking society.” Implicit in the phrase is the understanding that a progressive peacetime depopulation will entail much more than a lowered head count. It will inescapably mean a transformation of family life, social relationships, hopes and expectations—and much more.

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