Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Japanese survey report ‘iffy’ on local labor

Japanese survey report ‘iffy’ on local labor

Tuesday, 29 December 2009 04:22
by Romeo Carlos | Variety News Staff

THE New Year will dawn pregnant with uncertainty about the massive militarization of Guam. But it becomes clearer with each passing day that local workers and government coffers will not benefit so much from the economic promise of the military buildup as ballyhooed. What was not so clear until recently, however, is how local and U.S. hiring priorities may impact Japanese companies that will get a hefty share of the multi-billion buildup purse.

A 2007 Overseas Construction Costs Survey commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Defense was presented earlier this month to a group of companies in Tokyo preparing to bid on military buildup projects valued at as much as $2 billion.

But a lack of a comprehensive U.S. planning and severe labor concerns could contribute to further delaying the Pentagon’s time-line for a troops transfer from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

Yamashita Construction Corporation researched how much it would cost Japanese contractors to do business on Guam with the military realignment projects about to hit the pipeline.

Holidays on Mondays

The Japanese survey report quantifying the real cost of labor at the unit level pointed to the lower wages for local Guam workers than in Japan or on the U.S. mainland as a plus.

But the blunt analysis goes on to caution “low levels of productivity with more time spent per unit of work, and the limited number of workers…labor costs in whole may be higher than expected for the overall construction project.”

The survey noted that local workers are often taking “holidays” on Mondays following the bimonthly pay period and would thus contribute to absenteeism and worker shortage on projects.

A Guam-based Japanese businessman liaising with potential business interests from Japan echoes the construction survey assessments and insists the U.S. government has to do something to address the worker shortage if the buildup projects are not to fall victim to cost overruns.

Not clear

Japanese researchers discovered what island residents and some lawmakers are still complaining about, two years after the report was first delivered to Japanese officials: the lack of a clear design or quantitative survey reports about the buildup upon which to perform proper costs analysis and planning make it a risky venture.

“There are limited skilled workers on Guam, and due to poor productivity, one project may need twice the number of workers or hours to complete than it would in Japan. And the Hawaiian congressman (Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI) making it harder to hire from the Philippines now. That changes everything really,” the Japanese businessman told Variety.

“This is something that has to be rethought,” he added, warning about requirements to hire local and U.S. workers first.

With the election of a new ruling party in Japan and the election of President Obama - the local Japanese agent for an Osaka-based company told Variety, “Our prime minister is acting bewildered and the U.S. has not made plans for getting enough workers, some companies want to come and see for themselves what is happening on Guam now.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When you use the phrase "labor shortage" or "skills shortage" you're speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: "There is a labor shortage at the salary level I'm willing to pay." That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence and the intellectually honest statement.

Some people speak about shortages as though they represent some absolute, readily identifiable lack of desirable services. Price is rarely accorded its proper importance in their discussion.

If you start raising wages and improving working conditions, and continue doing so, you'll solve your shortage and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

And if you think there's going to be a shortage caused by employees retiring out of the workforce: Guess again: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, most people entering retirement age are working well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, the solution is higher wages and improved benefits. People will self-fund their re-education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to self-fund their own career re-education.

There is never enough of any good or service to satisfy all wants or desires. A buyer, or employer, must give up something to get something. They must pay the market price and forego whatever else he could have for the same price. The forces of supply and demand determine these prices -- and the price of a skilled workman is no exception. The buyer can take it or leave it. However, those who choose to leave it (because of lack of funds or personal preference) must not cry shortage. The good is available at the market price. All goods and services are scarce, but scarcity and shortages are by no means synonymous. Scarcity is a regrettable and unavoidable fact.

Shortages are purely a function of price. The only way in which a shortage has existed, or ever will exist, is in cases where the "going price" has been held below the market-clearing price.