The competitive advantage of the Japanese firm is claimed to be due to a range of management practices, such as just-in-time and quality circles, and the enterprise structure of unions. The purpose of this presentation is to assess the impact of management practices and enterprise unions on the economic performance of Japanese firms over the period 1991 to 2001. This has been a period of prolonged economic downturn and change for Japan. The research is based on identical surveys of Japanese firms conducted in 1991, 1995 and 2001 and detailed case studies and interviews with senior managers and union officials over the ten-year period.
John Benson is an Associate Professor and Reader in the Department of Management, University of Melbourne, Australia. From 1994 to 1997 he was Professor of Economics and Management at Hiroshima City University, Japan. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne and is the author/editor of six monographs and over 70 refereed papers and book chapters. His major research interests are Japanese enterprise management, the economic impact of Japanese unions and the restructuring of Chinese industry. He has recently completed with Dr Chris Rowley (City University, London) an edited volume titled Changes and Continuities in Asian Human Resource Management: Convergence Revisited (Frank Cass, London) which is due for release in late 2003.