Estarão os EUA a tornar-se japoneses?

BERKELEY – No final da década de1980, o Japão era aparentemente incapaz de cometer qualquer erro aos olhos dos economistas. Estes consideravam que o Japão tinha uma clara vantagem competitiva sobre a região do Atlântico Norte relativamente a um vasto leque de indústrias de alta tecnologia de precisão e de produção em massa que produziam bens transaccionáveis. Viam também uma economia que, desde o início da reconstrução após a Segunda Guerra Mundial, havia superado significativamente os níveis de crescimento esperado para as economias europeias. E viam uma economia que crescia a um ritmo substancialmente mais rápido do que o verificado nas economias do Atlântico Norte quando estas registavam os mesmos níveis de produtividade absolutos e relativos à escala de toda a economia.

A aposta segura no final da década de 1980 parecia ser a de que a mecanização, a informatização e a automatização teriam continuidade. As pressões políticas e económicas levariam um maior número de sectores japoneses a proceder a uma mudança para formas de funcionamento mecanizadas intensivas e de alta produtividade. Uma mudança que já fora efectuada pelo sector industrial orientado à exportação (e que sectores como a agricultura e a distribuição já tinham efectuado ou estavam em vias de efectuar na região do Atlântico Norte).

A ética de trabalho japonesa manter-se-ia, pensava-se, e a elevada taxas de poupança do Japão, bem como o fraco crescimento demográfico verificado no país assegurar-lhe-iam uma vantagem substancial em termos de intensidade de capital - e, por conseguinte, de produtividade laboral - que se sobrepunha a qualquer vantagem à escala de toda a economia que pudesse vir a desenvolver a nível de produtividade total dos factores. Além disso, a proximidade a uma fonte imensa de mão-de-obra barata permitiria ao Japão construir uma divisão regional de trabalho que aproveitaria a sua mão-de-obra bem qualificada e bem remunerada e que contrataria externamente, na Ásia continental, a mão-de-obra não qualificada a baixos níveis salariais e, consequentemente, empregos de baixa produtividade.

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