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    The youth should do it

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    It would be nice if you could just have a good idea and implement it. But there is always a catch. The Japanese, who want to advance their country’s economy, are now feeling this too. The island state has recognized that the domestic industry must finally stop sleeping through the trend towards electric vehicles. So investing now. Automobile giant Toyota recently announced that they are working on a fast-charging super battery that can drive up to 1,200 kilometers. And Japan’s government is pumping a total of 330 billion yen, the equivalent of almost 2.1 billion euros, into battery development. Good idea, but there’s a catch: to produce a battery, you need a few ingredients that are either scarce or not available in Japan, such as cobalt, lithium, rare earth metals – and young people.

    Securing supply chains is a big issue for Japan as part of its so-called economic security strategy. So far, public perception has primarily been about the lifeless raw materials without which there is no need to start manufacturing batteries. A basic supply of people was rarely mentioned. But the fact is that even the finest high-tech metals cannot be combined to form an energy store on their own. Competent people have to do that, but they are primarily in China. Because Japan’s authoritarian neighbor not only manages the majority of the metal deliveries with its prospecting rights. After countries like Japan outsourced production to China for years, the engineers, developers and technicians for the battery business are mainly there.

    There is a lack of people in the entire process from the mine to processing

    Many have the personnel problem: the EU, the USA, South Korea. It also affects not only battery development for the traffic turnaround with electric cars, but also other green technologies, such as wind turbines. There is a lack of people in the entire process from the mine to processing. The business journal Quartz quoted from a report by industry experts that there are over 12,000 full-time high-tech metals researchers in China compared to just 300 in the US.

    But Japan has a plan for the battery business: the government in Tokyo wants to train 30,000 more specialists by 2030, thereby quadrupling the number in the island state. She has a particular focus on teenagers. Like the magazine Nikkei reports, talent scouts at universities and vocational schools are supposed to recruit the battery developers of the future, but also at the country’s high schools, which 16 to 18-year-olds attend. As early as this December, 40 young people in Osaka, a port city on the Japanese island of Honshu, are to begin the said training. Good idea, but then there’s another catch: Japan is the oldest society in the world. Almost 30 percent of the 125 million people in the island state are 65 and older, in 2022 fewer than 800,000 babies were born for the first time. So there aren’t that many teenagers, let alone those who are interested – and other sectors also have a need for young people. The battery industry and its government helpers will soon face a competition for young blood that will raise questions.

    Doesn’t the teenage production have to get going first?

    Doesn’t domestic teenage production have to get going before battery production in order to become more independent from China? How do you ensure reliable supply chains for young battery friends? Prime Minister Fumio Kishida only presented a large package of measures against Japan’s aging in June. Among other things, it is intended to offer young parents more child benefits and more help with their upbringing. But even if Kishida’s campaign were to bring a whole bunch of teenagers, they won’t be there for at least 16 years and can’t help for the time being.

    What to do? Teenage imports from countries other than China? Significantly more migration? More open refugee policy? Good idea, of course with a hook. The right-wing ruling party LDP and many others in the country fear diversity. Apparently they think it would be the best idea if you could just build humans like robots. The catch is that no one can.

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