[OPE-L:3234] Re: labour-power shortages

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 2 Oct 1996 19:45:33 -0700 (PDT)

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Iwao wrote in [OPE-L:3228]:

> I'm not clear on labour-power shortage theory of crisis, but the crisis
> in '70 were caused by the shortage of new applicants due to the end
> of the destruction of farm area at least in Japan. Such constraint
> narrowed the possibility of further rapid accumulation. The second
> case in Japan was in 1990. Japan experienced a certain wage rise due to
> shortage of workforce without active labour actions. At the time wage
> rise rate in smaller enterprises got higher than that in big
> multinationals. It was an exceptional case since '60s. This wage rise
> led profit rates to decline in general and caused extraordinary decline
> of stock prices and land prices that resulted a particular economic
> crisis in 1992.

I think you would agree that this extent of the shortage of farm area
(hectares of land suitable for agricultural production, I guess) is not
common in most advanced capitalist nations. In this sense, Japan could be
said to be either a unique or special case.

Now why was there a labour-power shortage in Japan? I suspect there were a
number of contingent factors. Wasn't the Japanese government's policy
towards labor migration [into Japan] a factor that would perpetuate the
shortage of available labor to exploit? In this sense, the increase in
wages was affected by *state* policies. Yet, the policies regarding labor
migration by the Japanese government are not typical of the policies that
have been pursued by governments in other advanced capitalist nations, who
have generally favored permitting an increase in migrant or "guest"
workers when there is a shortage of available labour-power. Of course,
when there is a crisis and increasing unemployment, state policies
frequently change -- due, in part, to political pressure put on these
governments by, among others, trade unions.

Why were wages increasing at a greater rate in smaller firms than in TNCs?
Was it because of the crisis in particular markets like the auto industry
where the TNCs dominate or was it because the wages were much lower in the
smaller firms to begin with? Or was some other factor or factors
responsible for this disparity in the rate of wage increases?

Finally, you suggest that the increase in wages "led" (i.e. caused) the
decrease in profitability, etc. Why do you believe that the increase in
wages *caused* the decrease in profitability (rather than being one of a
*number* of variables the led to decreasing profit margins)?

In Solidarity,