News / Asia

Q&A: Is Japan Facing an Economic Sunset?

Q&A: Is Japan Facing an Economic Sunset?
Q&A: Is Japan Facing an Economic Sunset?
TEXT SIZE - +

Japan may be wishing for a more prosperous year in 2011, after suffering a series of setbacks in 2010. Not only did the economy temporarily slip from second to third place, but Japan’s largest automaker, Toyota, struggled through a series of humiliating quality-control and product recalls.  To make matters worse, successive Japanese governments have failed to reverse three decades of economic stagnation.

Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asia Studies at Tokyo's Temple University, discusses Japan’s ongoing economic struggles.

Is the “Land of the Rising Sun” seeing an economic “sunset”?

“The news is pretty grim all around. I think most Japanese think Japan’s best days are behind it. So, I do think that many people here feel that it is the land of “the setting sun.”  One-quarter of the population is now over 65- years-old.  Young people increasingly can’t find fulltime jobs.  Even though the unemployment figure in Japan is only about five percent, that really masks the real extent of the problem. One-third of the entire workforce is working on a part time or temporary basis, which is double what it was 20 years ago.  So, yes, we are now in the third decade of the “lost decade.”  Stock prices remain down 70 percent from their high in 1989.  Land prices remain down two-thirds since their high in 1990. So all around people look at the economic landscape and it’s hard to see much glimmer of hope.”

Do you think the Japanese have accepted this fate?

“Japanese are very stoic, perhaps to a fault.  I think that in corporate Japan there is perhaps undue complacency and a lot of resting on laurels.  If you look at the corporate sector, profits are doing okay.  There are a lot of problems that are stretching social cohesion.  There is a growing disparity in society between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” between the older generation that is doing pretty well and the younger generation that really doesn’t have much hope.

I think Japan does have fundamental strengths.  It does have some of the leading companies of the world, in the high-tech sector, in automobiles.  Another good thing for Japan is that it is well poised to tap into the growth of China and India.  Japan is the largest investor in China, so the growth story of China actually benefits Japan.

But I think overall, people think because of political gridlock, and because of corporate complacency, Japan’s problems are a lot worse than they might be. And, they are taking half-measures that mitigate the problems, but don’t really address the fundamental issues.”

Does Japan have to remake itself economically?

“I think many people feel that they have to ‘fine tune.’  It’s not a massive overhaul, but it is changing certain policies and overhauling the tax structure and perhaps addressing medical care reform.  But I think the structural reforms that Japan needs [to do] are politically difficult.  Economically it is going to be painful for some people.”

What are the foreign policy implications of Japan’s economic downturn?

“Japan has just issued new defense guidelines in which it has identified China as a growing threat in the region.  North Korea is clearly identified as an existing threat.  So, I think Japan’s defense posture is shifting away from a Soviet Union-Russia--northern focus, to redeploying some of its strength to the south and trying to upgrade its navy and air force.  So, the problem for Japan is now that, given the shrinking economy, given the fact that the public debt-to-GDP ratio is 200 percent, there are question marks about just to what extent they can actually contribute to the Japan-U.S. alliance.”  



You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid