[OPE-L:3308] Re: labour-power shortages

Iwao Kitamura (ikita@st.rim.or.jp)
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 09:47:03 -0700 (PDT)

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Jerry [3234] in reply to my [3228]:
>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.

My words shortage. What I meant was that labor-power in farm area had been
the source of labor-power for the modern industries in urban area. There was
two reasons. One was relative excess of labor-power in farm area due to
agriculture productivity increase given by machinary. Another was relative
high income in urban area. At the time, so-called "collective employment"
exsisted. It was that middle-educated youth were organized to be employed
from farm area to urban industry by schools at their graduation. Certain amount
of middle aged agriculture labor-power moved to urban area at the same time.
In '70, due to shortage of migration from farm area, Japanese firms began to
build factories in farm area where they could find source of cheap labor-power.
Most of workers there were and are farmers who work in factories as second

>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.

Japanese government traditionally adopt "non-migration" policy. At the boom
in late '80s, this policy was unofficially suspended. Much labor-power was
"imported" from south-east and middle-east countries as illegal and temporal
workforce. Japanese consulates there issued "sight-seeing" visas very easy
at the boom. But the ability of migration offices of japanese airports was limited
so that number of "sight-seeing" guests was relatively limited, although number
of officers much increased. At the crisis, this policy was changed back to the
old one.
So, even regarding this limitation of labor-power import, I would say that
the direct factor of decrease in profit and next-coming crisis was labor-power
shortage apparently.

>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?

To my thought, this was due to shortage of several particular types of
labor-power which mostly employed by smaller firms. e.g. construction.
And shortage of simple labor-power.

>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)?

My words shortage again. Looking at fiscal situation of most coporates,
increase in cost of wage was the most negative factor for profit while
sales increased nominally and quantatively. Increase in depreciation
and increase in interest payment was relatively small.
change from 1988(peak) to 1991(beginning of crisis)
private coporate income -4201
employee income 42298
GDP 57465
depreciation 9912
(private coporates)

I don't have data of value added in private corporate sector here but it was
of cource less than GDP. Unemployment rate was around 2.1% at the time.
(very low comparing to current 3.5%)

But I think this would be a direct but only an apparent reason of the crisis.

in solidarity,