Japan, Like US, Suffering From Rikei Banare


I have written a few times about the declining enrollment computer science and engineering students in the US and Canada. Looks like Japan is having similar problems.

A story in the New York Times over the weekend about Japan running out of engineers. The article says:

"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."

The story goes on, "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."

Estimates are that Japan is short 500K engineers in its digital technology industries.

It is may be very hard for Japan to reverse the decline from just demographics factors alone.

A story in April appearing in the Japan Times says that Japan is facing a "labor shortage of 4.27 million people in 2025 on the back of the declining birthrate and mass retirement of baby boomers."

The story goes on, however, to say that the work of 3.5 million Japanese workers could be covered if advanced robots become popular. One estimate, for instance, is that robots "could take over about 970,000 jobs in medical and nursing care services."

That is assuming, of course, there are enough Japanese computer scientists and engineers still around to build and program the robots required.

Robotics is looking more and more like a good career field.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City