Chris Wood
Tuesday November 23rd, 2010

Competing Countries

Recently I saw a piece on TV about two Japanese graduate twins and their jobs in Tokyo and Shanghai respectively. The tenor was that all is fine in China, but Japan is stagnating, (or worse). This annoyed me. Of course China has a much lower living standard than Japan. No mention was made of this as the cause of the difference in job opportunities and job competition among graduates. China has huge numbers of poor who have little chance of studying. They provide cheap labour, giving opportunities for graduates. (Of course the graduates are also useful to the poor). I presume Japan has a relatively high proportion of graduates.

The industrialised countries for decades have been losing (willingly or not) their technical lead. So the rest of the world with reasonable organisation can catch up, (provided for instance corruption is limited). When they have caught up, (as Japan, Taiwan, S- Korea, etc. have done), the “advantage” of cheap labour is lost, so economic growth slows. Economic growth also slows because it is no longer so desirable. While some people are prepared to work all hours for the money, most of us feel that leisure matters too. Enough money is enough, even if we would welcome a bit more.

Why are there differences in the slowing of economic growth? I think Japan has problems with overcrowding and lack of resources. Why is Germany apparently doing better than USA? I think the opening up of E. Europe is helping Germany, (which partly explains why Germany is doing better than the rest of W. Europe). I think another reason is a cultural difference that Germans actually learn to like work! I suspect that Americans tend rather to work for the money. When a typical American has enough, he or she relaxes, but a German keeps working.

Of course I am writing this in a great state of ignorance, and expect a lot of negative comments. I have recently seen two university dissertations, which showed hard work, but seemed pointless. In one case I asked the student who told me happily that I was right. This reminded me of a case where I was helping a schoolgirl with her maths. She was set a problem that had no answer. The conditions were not sufficiently defined. Later, she told me that a couple of the best in the class had pointed this out, but the teacher refused to nullify the marks given. She said that if those in the class had listened to her, they would have known what she expected as a result. I was shocked! Maths should be about getting things right. How can good marks be given for giving a result when there is none? I would be even more surprised if that happened in England.

But this made me think about what results from such attitudes and training. I think most workers will then do what they are told. This may produce better results in industry! Such attitudes worked well in the military for a long time.
I make no claim to being a rebel, but I probably always thought too much, rather than just working. Companies I have worked for have generally gone downhill, (ICL, Nixdorf). Siemens wisely gave up the divisions where I worked (computers and telephony. Roland’s company would probably no longer exist if he had employed me. (Those who do not know me should avoid taking this paragraph seriously. I was never important enough to do real damage).

As another example of somebody who thought too much, I remember Hugh Davies. In about 1970, he was one of my team leaders. He wrote a memo addressed to the manager 5 levels above him explaining his view that ICL had too many layers of management. He sent copies to the levels of hierarchy between. (In those days we programmers had girls to punch cards or type memos for us). I thought (and still think) that he was right. When my boss read his copy, he rushed round collecting all the copies he could. Later I realised that such a memo may have damaged Hugh’s career prospects, and perhaps even mine too. With fewer management levels, there would be fewer jobs for managers.

Getting serious again, I see competition within and between countries as a driving force towards prosperity. But can the world afford so much prosperity? There is no chance that the world’s current population can all live like the industrial nations do now. Yet the media and politicians rejoice at economic growth in the wealthy nations too. It is high time to start to organise things differently.

1 Kommentar zu “Competing Countries”

  1. rd (Tuesday November 23rd, 2010)

    Chris – Danke!

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