Friday, January 28, 2011

Debt rating and young workers in Japan

Two related articles on Japan appeared in the NYT today, one on the plight of young workers in what seems like a permanently down economy with ossified corporate structures, and another on a downgrade in sovereign debt rating by S&P. Probably the most humorous part of either is the quote attributed to Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the latter:

“I just heard that news,” a flustered-looking Mr. Kan told reporters. “I am a little ignorant on those kind of matters,” he said. “Let me look into it more.”

Humility? Check. Qualifications for job? Hm.

Not to be cute, but in a nutshell, that's similar to the theme in the first article. Because of rapid declines in fertility and mortality, Japan's age structure is heavily weighted toward the old, who apparently dominate corporate culture. But I'm not sure it matters that much who's in the driver seat as long as they make productive use of it. While the article begins from the perspective of the demographic imbalance, which is real, it quickly drifts to the issue of rigidity in corporate structures and in society, and the lack of entrepreneurial possibilities.