18 June 2008

High-tech Japan running out of engineers

This morning walking to work, I remembered reading an interesting New York Times article entitled "High-tech Japan running out of engineers." Japan running out of engineers? That seems impossible! Here are some reasons given in the article:
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.
Later in the article:
Japan’s biggest problem may be the attitudes of affluence. Some young Japanese, products of a rich society, unfamiliar with the postwar hardships many of their parents and grandparents knew, do not see the value in slaving over plans and numbers when they could make money, have more contact with other people or have more fun.
And a little later in the article:
“Students today are more demanding and individualistic, like Westerners,” said Hitoshi Kawaguchi, senior vice president in charge of human resources at Nissan.
I would like to write a rejoinder that engineering is not worse than finance, medicine, and art as a career, but it's hard for me to say, since I know nothing about Japanese culture.

I must be really old-fashioned. I don't consider myself "demanding and individualistic." Still, if engineering is becoming as respected as plumbing, that doesn't bode well for scientific literacy in first world countries. It disturbs me how Asian culture is shifting towards Western values. I hope traditional Asian values like family, discipline, and respect for elders don't disappear.

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