Japan's chip market share once surpassed that of the United States
Beijing time, June 27 news, Japan's major semiconductor manufacturers SONY, Toshiba and other companies warned that a shortage of engineers is threatening the Japanese government's efforts to revive the domestic chip industry.
Japan is stepping up investment in semiconductors to strengthen its economic security after supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to chip shortages. Japan, however, faces a labor shortage.
Last month, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industry Association (JEITA) wrote to the ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that the five years to 2030 represented "the last and best chance for the Japanese semiconductor industry to regain its footing" after years of losing global market share.
The semiconductor industry's success depends on companies getting enough talent to innovate and operate their chip factories, the association said. It estimates that Japan's eight big manufacturers will need to hire about 35,000 engineers over the next decade to keep pace with investment.
"People often say there is a semiconductor shortage, but the biggest shortage is engineers," said Hideki Wakabayashi, a professor at Tokyo University of Science who heads the working group on policy proposals at the Semiconductor Industry Association of Japan.
Why the talent shortage?
In the late 1980s, Japanese semiconductor companies invested heavily in expanding production, giving The country a little more than half of the global semiconductor market, overtaking the U.S. But after a bitter trade conflict with Washington, Japan ceded the lead to companies from South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China.
In 2008, the world financial crisis, chip engineers were laid off. Wakabayashi points out that this is why there are not enough experienced senior engineers.
Toyooki Mitsui, a manager at Kaixia, a maker of flash memory chips, said students studying semiconductors at university now tended to join financial institutions or technology companies because the chip industry had long since lost its appeal. Kai Xia is a member of JEITA working group.
A new factory
To spur innovation and train future employees, Toshiba, SONY and others are working with the country's best science departments to pour extra money into chip research and recruitment. Last month, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to strengthen semiconductor manufacturing capabilities and co-operate more in developing advanced chips.
Figure 3: SONY and TSMC build a new factory
SONY is teaming up with TSMC to build an $8.6bn factory on the southern island of Kyushu, which it aims to employ about 1,700 people. The Japanese government said it would provide up to 476 billion yen ($3.5 billion) in subsidies for the plant.
On top of that, Japan is building more factories. Kaixia and its joint venture partner, Western Digital, are spending nearly Y1,000bn on a plant in central Japan that will start production this autumn. They will also allocate a further Y1,000bn to build a plant in northern Japan due to be completed next year.
Renesas Electronics will also invest Y90bn to restart a plant it closed in 2014 to expand production of power semiconductors used in electric vehicles.
The situation remains grim
"Even though the global chip industry has doubled in size, Japan lagged behind the rest of the world in chip investment and hiring until the mid-2010s." "Says Kazuma Inoue, a consultant at Recruit, a recruitment firm.
But he says workers have been hard to find. The number of workers aged 25 to 44 in the electronic components, equipment and circuits industry has fallen from 380,000 in 2010 to 240,000 in 2021, according to data released by the Statistics Bureau.
"Most Japanese students in science and engineering are more interested in IT, not necessarily semiconductors." "There is a global competition for the best engineers and we need to find a way to stay competitive," said Takashi Miyamori, general manager of Toshiba electronics Components' research and development centre. (Author/Xiao Yu)
More first-hand news, welcome to download phoenix news client to subscribe ifeng.com technology. For in-depth coverage, search "ifeng_tech" on wechat.