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 In Focus

The Asian service economy

Published 2001-01-10

Patrik Ström is an economist with a special interest in Japan, and he has taken his doctor’s degree in economic geography at the Göteborg School of Economics, partly financed as a SSAAPS doctoral student. Today he is a Pro Futura scholarship holder.

Pro Futura II is financed by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation in collaboration with STINT and SCASSS (the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences). On the programme, in honour of Staffan Helmfrid, Professor of Human Geography, a scholarship was awarded to Patrik Ström in 2005.

After the first four years of the programme the scholarship holders are able to apply for a second round of three years, for which the universities involved are expected to create a tenure-track post.

Over the last decades the industrialised world has seen a rapid transformation of the economy into becoming dominated by various forms of services. Most OECD countries have more than two thirds of their GDP generated from the service sector. This shift in the economic structure can also be found in many of the high-growth economies in East Asia. Japan, however, being the second largest economy in the world seems to lag behind many of the other advanced OECD countries in relation to the development and internationalisation of the service sector, measured as contribution to GDP and employment share. The interest of finding out what was going on in the Japanese service economy became the starting point for my PhD project in economic geography at the Göteborg School of Business, Economics and Law, financed through the Swedish School of Advanced Asia Pacific Studies (SSAAPS). This enabled me to study the internationalisation of Japanese professional business services in the UK, Singapore and also on the Japanese domestic market. During the project I could spend time for fieldwork in the region and also as a visiting researcher at Keio University in Tokyo, where I was invited by Professor Naoyuki Yoshino at the department of economics. It gave me excellent opportunities to study the economic geography and reasons for internationalisation of these firms. It also gave me important possibilities to present parts of my research and interact with fellow researchers at international conferences.

A number of factors seem to explain why the Japanese firms have had limited success on the world market. The most interesting aspect is the limited experience of charging for services, and not to look upon them as being for free. Another reason is that most of the firms have traditionally only served Japanese clients abroad or have been internalised, and therefore not been exposed to fierce international competition, which is needed to continuously increase productivity and quality. However, the research showed that this situation is rapidly changing. New players have entered the market within the Asian service economy such as Singapore, China and Korea just to mention a few. It creates both challenges and opportunities for the Japanese service firms.

Through the generous support of The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and STINT, I have been given the chance to continue and deepen the study of the rapidly growing service economy in East and Southeast Asia, within the Pro Futura post-doc program. With both Japan and China as important economies for the region and the world, a number of interesting research issues lie ahead. Through field research in the region and being able to work together with researchers in Japan, the aim is to create an understanding of the future for the service economy in Asia, where the Japanese economy might act as a facilitator through internationalisation and continues increased economic integration in the region. The study of knowledge intensive service sectors such as various consulting services and the software and computer game industry is at the core of the research project. Technological advancement and the regional economic integration would help to create new forms of network structures, where urban centres are the main hubs for this knowledge and value creation in the Asian service economy.

Patrik Ström
Pro Futura Fellow

Senast uppdaterad: 07-01-26 11:19

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