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The engineering shortage: Japan

May 17, 2008 1 Comment

Today’s New York Times reports that Japan is “running out of engineers“:

After years of fretting over coming shortages, the country is actually facing a dwindling number of young people entering engineering and technology-related fields.

Universities call it “rikei banare,” or “flight from science.” The decline is growing so drastic that industry has begun advertising campaigns intended to make engineering look sexy and cool, and companies are slowly starting to import foreign workers, or sending jobs to where the engineers are, in Vietnam and India.

It was engineering prowess that lifted this nation from postwar defeat to economic superpower. But according to educators, executives and young Japanese themselves, the young here are behaving more like Americans: choosing better-paying fields like finance and medicine, or more purely creative careers, like the arts, rather than following their salaryman fathers into the unglamorous world of manufacturing.

The problem did not catch Japan by surprise. The first signs of declining interest among the young in science and engineering appeared almost two decades ago, after Japan reached first-world living standards, and in recent years there has been a steady decline in the number of science and engineering students. But only now are Japanese companies starting to feel the real pinch.

Read the whole article.  ..bruce w..

Filed in: Education, Hiring, Main

About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

Comments (1)

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  1. yurri says:

    That was predictable. Being an engineer means that your knowledge is logical and formalizable. So this knowledge can be shared easily and transfered from one to another – and the value of every specific performer is not high and he can be replaced in any time (well, not really in any time but with calculable efforts).

    And when you master some knowledge that cannot be formalized as easily – interior design, dj and so on – your value as a performer is high because those who like you can’t replace you. That’s funny because producing electronics is much more harder that mixing songs – but despite this electronics engineers don’t have their own faces but every artist does. And people like to have a cognate face.

    I think it’s a problem to the world we know, but to my regret it happens because of immanent engineering qualities.

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