Jul 17, 2018
For those of you who have been in Japan a while, you know that it may take a while to get construction projects started, but when they get going, they’re done quickly. That’s what happened in our town recently, and it prompted me to ponder an important debate.
Here’s the project:
A gigantic factory is under construction, and the behemoth significantly obscures the landscape from my neighborhood. While the cranes will be gone in a few short weeks, the massive structure will remain, and I’m of two minds about the project.
Certainly, I recognize that building another factory out here not only creates construction jobs in a town with more construction firms than anything else (though they do farm in between projects to supplement income), it will eventually provide employments opportunities for factory workers. The town is shrinking and would like to attract younger employees out here, and I can see that ready-to-hire jobs would help to that end. Also, more residents means more customers for other local businesses, more people looking to rent and buy homes, more families to fill up the schools, etc. On paper, it sounds like a good deal.
Still, I do wonder if it’s all worth it. For one, it is a pretty big blight on an otherwise beautiful landscape. Is the eyesore worth it to stimulate the local economy?
Let’s look at the other potential negatives. I’m not sure what kind of factory it will be, but one hopes that it won’t have a significantly negative environmental impact. Still, factories being what they are, tend to be a net negative for the environment.
Also, who knows how well they’ll be able to fill the factory with workers. The town is shrinking, but unemployment is not increasing, meaning that there isn’t really a large local labor market. That means the firm operating the factory is going to have to import labor from elsewhere, and while I love Niigata and Minamiuonuma, I don’t know how many other people are going to be chomping at the bit to live in Yukiguni (“snow country”). Exacerbating that is the fact that Japan is already looking at a labor shortage, so if someone doesn’t want to move to Niigata, they have choices elsewhere. What happens if the factory can’t get enough laborers? I am all for immigration, but is that what the city is anticipating? I’m not sure that it is.
So I guess in the end, I’m against the factory idea. This area is great and has industries that will need labor to continue it. There are plenty of fields that need young farmers; sake breweries that need young brewers; builders that need young builders. There’s also a major university out here that could be a hub for scholarship and policy. The city needs to find a way to sell those jobs to prospective residents, rather than degrade one of the best qualities this area has to offer: the environment.
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).
“The city needs to find a way to sell those jobs to prospective residents, rather than degrade one of the best qualities this area has to offer: the environment.” This comment says it all. Usually instead of shoring up what is already there and make it better to attract more ( younger) people , the powers that be tend to think they need to put in more buildings, more this and that when in truth that’s not what is needed. I wish they would look at the resources around them and make better informed decisions. Not just those that suits the upper echelon of the society.
@Candiajia1, with you 100%!