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Japan's Declining International Competitiveness and Declining Enrollment in Doctoral Programs

According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) on June 20, 2023, Japan's competitiveness in 2023 ranked 35th among 64 countries and regions (1). (World Competitiveness Yearbook) published by the IMD (International Institute for Management Development) on June 20, 2011, Japan's competitiveness in 2023 is reported to be 35th out of 64 countries and regions covered in the World Competitiveness Yearbook (1). (1) Compared to the Asia-Pacific region, Japan ranks 11th out of 14 countries. Incidentally, Singapore ranked first in the Asia-Pacific region (4th overall), followed by Taiwan and Hong Kong, and emerging countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia were selected above Japan. Looking at the changes in Japan's ranking, it appears that Japan was ranked No. 1 from 1989 to 1992, when the data was first published, and that its ranking has been declining every year since then. Although it may be impossible to determine whether this data really shows Japan's actual competitiveness, it seems certain that at least in the eyes of the world, Japan is now considered to be in such a position. It is often said that Japan has lost 30 years, and the same can be said of the data.

  What about our field of university and education? In the above competitiveness ranking, "education" is one of the four factors that make up the overall ranking: "infrastructure," "economic performance," "efficiency of government," and "efficiency of management.

 Let's also look at research capabilities. In the Science and Technology Index 2022 published by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan's ranking has been declining year by year in terms of high-profile papers, and is now reported to be in 12th place. In the U.S., 44.6% of PhDs are held by universities and 39.9% by companies, while in Japan, 75.3% are held by universities and only 13.7% by companies. In other words, it is difficult to get a job in a company in Japan even if you work hard to obtain a doctoral degree.

 Recently, it was reported that the number of students enrolling in doctoral programs has decreased by 20% over the past 20 years, and we, as university faculty members, need to rethink the fact that the number of young people who will support Japan in the future, who will be responsible for advanced research and technological advancement, is decreasing. Although it is difficult to make a general statement, it can be said that there are fewer options for employment in Japan than in the U.S., even for those who have advanced to doctoral programs and developed their expertise. In addition, it is too much of a burden to borrow scholarship money to pay tuition fees, and to have to repay the scholarship money even after finding a job. In Japan today, there are few advantages to entering a doctoral program.

 In this day and age, the traditional Japanese educational methods of the Showa era will not be able to compete in the coming era. In particular, we are now in a period of change, and individual skills need to be enhanced. Universities also need to create an environment in which students can take advantage of doctoral programs, and although there is not much I can do, I would like to continue to educate young people with a bright future.

(1)IMD World Competitiveness Center,

(2) National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Science and Technology Indicators 2022

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