Japan’s biggest chipmakers from Toshiba to Sony brace for engineer shortage

Japan’s largest semiconductor manufacturers from Toshiba to Sony warn that the government’s attempt to revitalize the domestic chip industry is being threatened by a shortage of engineers.

The expected labor crisis comes as Japan works to increase investment semiconductor as part of an effort to strengthen its economic security in the wake of chip shortages caused by Covid-19 supply disruptions.

in a (n Appeal to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Last month, an electronics industry panel said that the five years to 2030 “represent the last and greatest chance for Japan’s semiconductor industry to regain its footing” after years of losing global market share.

The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association said the sector’s success depends on attracting enough talent to innovate and run its chip factories. It is estimated that eight major manufacturers will need to hire about 35,000 engineers over the next 10 years to keep up with the pace of investment.

“It’s often said that there is a shortage of semiconductors, but the biggest shortage is engineers,” said Hideki Wakabayashi, a professor at Tokyo University of Science and head of the policy proposal task force at the JEITA Semiconductor Committee.

By the late 1980s, Japanese semiconductor companies invested lavishly in expanding production, overtaking the US to capture just over half the world market share. But after a bitter trade dispute with Washington, Japan ceded its dominance to companies in South Korea, Taiwan and eventually China.

This led to mass layoffs of engineers after the global financial crisis in 2008. Wakabayashi said this is why there are not enough experienced engineers today.

Students studying semiconductors at university now tend to join financial institutions or tech companies as the chip industry has long since lost its appeal, said Toyooki Mitsui, a manager at flash memory maker Kioxia, which is part of the JEITA task force.

To drive innovation and nurture potential employees, Toshiba, Sony and others are collaborating with the best scientific departments nationwide and investing additional resources in chip research and recruitment.

Last month, US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to strengthen semiconductor manufacturing capabilities and cooperation on the development of advanced chips.

TSMC is building an $8.6 billion plant with Sony on the southern island of Kyushu and intends to hire about 1,700 workers for the plant. The government said it would subsidize up to 476 billion yen (US$3.5 billion).

More plants are coming online. Kioxia, along with its joint venture partner Western Digital, is spending nearly 1 trillion yen on a factory in central Japan to open in the fall and will commit another 1 trillion yen on a factory in northern Japan to be completed next year.

Renesas Electronics will invest 90 billion yen to reopen a factory it closed in 2014 to expand power semiconductor production electric vehicles.

“Japan was at odds with the rest of the world in terms of investment and hiring until the mid-2010s, even as the global chip industry doubled in size,” said Kazuma Inoue, consultant at Recruit.

However, it has been difficult to find workers, Inoue said. The number of workers aged 25 to 44 in electronic components, equipment and circuits has fallen from 380,000 in 2010 to 240,000 in 2021, according to the Statistics Bureau of Japan.

“Most Japanese who study science are more interested in IT, not necessarily semiconductors,” said Takashi Miyamori of Toshiba Electronic Devices.

“There is a global battle for the best engineers and we need to find ways to be competitive,” he added.

Japan’s biggest chipmakers from Toshiba to Sony brace for engineer shortage Source link Japan’s biggest chipmakers from Toshiba to Sony brace for engineer shortage

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