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  5. Japanese SMEs in the Aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis

No.91 : Japanese SMEs in the Aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis

Research Fellow/主任研究員 Keishi Sugiura/杉浦 恵志

September 2000


  1. SMEs in East Asia demonstrated resilience in face of the financial crisis, and their entrepreneurship is leading the recovery process. It can be said therefore that the crisis has provided a timely opportunity to reappraise the role of SMEs across the region. This paper on Japanese SMEs constitutes a part of the comparative project organised by an international team of academics and practitioners. It deals with issues as comparable as possible with papers on other Asian economies.
  2. Prospects of Japanese SMEs are unlikely to be very optimistic. Reasons for SME difficulties are neither such temporary issues as the Asian financial crisis and the domestic credit crunch, nor such cyclical factors as business trends and exchange rate fluctuations. Changes they are confronted with are long-term: rapid aging of the society and global integration of business operation. Worse still, Japanese SMEs seem to lose entrepreneurship and have indigestion with e-commerce on the whole. Even service SMEs sense stalemate in the current recession.
  3. All the same, expectations to the role of SMEs in this mature economy are high. There are SMEs which did not hesitate to shut down old businesses and establish new ones, and thus driving the structural change. A specific type of SME agglomerations attempted at brave entry into new products and business fields. It should be reminded that SMEs are no longer a uniform group to be protected from voracious large enterprises.
  4. Recognition of this simple fact has brought about a Copernican change in the philosophy of SME policies in 1999. Policy targets are defined not just based on their scale but on the gap between what is necessary to carry out their forward-looking business plan and what is available on the market. The new SME policy is directed at implementing a public compensation for the gap. This reorientation is correct, although actual redistribution of public funding or review of policy tools does not always follow the line over night.


Japanese SMEs in the Aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis [107 KB]