Back to the Land in Japan



Hiroko Tabuchi has an interesting article in the New York Times about an element of Japan’s economic recovery program that aimed at getting unemployed young people to go work on farms. Low-immigration Japan, after all, winds up with a shortfall of agricultural workers even while the recession creates large-scale unemployment in metropolitan areas.

Of course one can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be smarter instead to try to tackle some of the structural issues in this area. Like all developed countries, Japan has agricultural protection policies that don’t make much economic sense. But my understanding is that Japan is the outlier in terms of going further than the United States or Europe does to try to prop up an agricultural sector that’s ill-suited to today’s realities. The ability of a structural labor shortage to coincide with high levels of unemployment seems to me to mostly just illustrate the point that the distortions involved in this make the Japanese economy less resilient than it otherwise might be.