There was an interesting piece on FT.com by Jonathan Soble on Jan 4th on the role of manufacturing in Japan. While the US bemoans that not enough is made here, some in Japan wonder the opposite: if they are too exposed to manufacturing as the sole source of competitiveness:
Perhaps most worryingly, many in Japan appear to believe the country has nothing to fall back on if manufacturing fails; that its workers are uniquely suited to monozukuri, the almost mystical concept of “making things”. They point to a scarcity of national champions in industries such as software and finance and to the inefficient services sector, where output per worker is less than half the US level. When manufacturing companies stumble – as in Toyota’s recalls in 2009 or the ongoing accounting scandal at Olympus – the sense of national embarrassment is keen.
“Japan’s whole identity is tied to manufacturing,” says Yoshikazu Tanaka, founder of Gree, a social gaming company. “If you’re not producing actual material objects, people treat you as though you’re doing something dodgy.”