¿EE. UU. se vuelve japonés?

BERKELEY – A fines de la década de 1980 daba la sensación de que para los economistas Japón no podía equivocarse. Percibían una clara ventaja en la competitividad japonesa respecto del Atlántico Norte en una amplia gama de industrias de precisión de alta tecnología y de producción en masa de bienes transables. También veían una economía que, desde el comienzo de la reconstrucción después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, había superado significativamente el crecimiento esperado de las economías europeas. Y veían una economía que crecía mucho más rápidamente que las del Atlántico Norte cuando tuvieron los mismos niveles absolutos y relativos de productividad general.

Parecía que la apuesta segura a fines de la década de 1980 era la mecanización, la computarización y robotización. La presión política y económica conducirían a la transformación de más sectores japoneses y su adopción de modos de organización intensivos en el uso de máquinas y con alta productividad, que la producción manufacturera orientada a las exportaciones ya había experimentado (y que había tenido lugar o estaba ocurriendo en sectores como la agricultura y la distribución en la región del Atlántico Norte).

Según este razonamiento, la ética del trabajo japonesa persistiría; junto con las elevadas tasas de ahorro y el lento crecimiento de su población le darían una ventaja sustancial en la intensidad del capital –y, por lo tanto, en la productividad del trabajo– además de las ventajas que podía desarrollar en todo el país en términos de la productividad total de sus factores. Además, su proximidad a una amplia reserva de trabajadores de bajo costo permitiría al Japón construir una división del trabajo regional que aprovechase al máximo su fuerza de trabajo bien remunerada y educada, y tercerizara las tareas de baja complejidad y bajos salarios –es decir, los empleos con baja productividad– al Asia continental.

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