Insight: "Made in Japan" engineers find second life in China

Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:07pm EDT
 
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By Kazunori Takada

DONGGUAN, China (Reuters) - Their technical skills helped Japan's corporate giants sweep all before them in the 1980s, and now thousands of aging Japanese engineers are finding a new lease on life in booming China.

"My profession is going out of business in Japan," said 59-year-old Masayuki Aida, who made molds for a Tokyo-based firm for 30 years but has spent most of his 50s in Dongguan, a gritty manufacturing hub in southern China's Pearl River Delta.

With the incessant noise of car horns and a pervasive smell of chemicals, the dusty streets of industrial Dongguan are a far cry from Tokyo or Osaka. Construction sites dot the city while beggars clutching tin cans approach cars at every intersection.

For Aida and many like him nearing the national retirement age of 60 the choice was simple - face a few years without an income as Japan raises the age at which employees get their pension or work for mainland Chinese and Hong Kong companies.

"People aren't making products in Japan anymore," said Aida, who makes molds for goods ranging from toys and earphones to coffee machines. "I wanted to pass on to younger generations all the knowledge and technology about molds I had obtained."

For Japan, marred by two decades of economic stagnation, the little reported exodus of engineers means rival Chinese firms are getting an injection of the technology and skills behind "Made in Japan" products.

Japanese government data shows 2,800 Japanese expats living in Dongguan alone, a city of more than 8 million people.

"From Japan's perspective, emerging countries are getting a free ride of the benefits we nurtured. So yes, it is a problem," said Yasushi Ishizuka, director of the intellectual property policy office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.   Continued...

 
Aida Masayuki poses outside a factory in the township of Zhangan near Dongguan in the southern Guangdong province March 20, 2012. Their technical skills helped Japan's corporate giants sweep all before them in the 1980s and now thousands of ageing Japanese engineers are finding a new lease of life in booming China. For Japan, marred by two decades of economic stagnation, the little reported exodus of engineers means rival Chinese firms are getting an injection of the technology and skills behind "Made in Japan" products. Picture taken March 20, 2012. To match Insight CHINA-JAPAN/TECHNOLOGY REUTERS/Bobby Yip