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Workers as Assets

July 31, 1988

Regarding James Flanigan's June 12 column, "Strong Yen Sets Off Tremors in Japanese Firms":

Although Flanigan's article accurately portrays the general effects of the appreciated yen on strategic directions of Japanese industry, it misses a very important point which has implications for U.S. industry and the challenge it faces from Japan Inc. for global markets.

Japanese officials agree that the yen appreciation is just another temporary economic crisis that they must overcome. In fact, the "restructuring" that is occurring is strengthening Japan's industrial machine. Suppliers and subcontractors of the major manufacturers are being forced to hasten already aggressive plans to automate labor-intensive processes with robotics and computer-integrated manufacturing to remain competitive with "offshore tigers."

In addition, Japanese workers are not being laid off in great numbers but are viewed as a national asset and are being retrained in technologies that promote productivity and quality. Japan will emerge from the yen crisis as an economic superpower, and the tremors being felt by Japanese industry will translate into a major competitive challenge for the U.S. government and industrial sector.

SHAW E. PENDER

Santa Monica

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