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Localised low-tech learning in the furniture industry

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It is by now an established fact, that the so-called high technology industries have experienced growth ratesway above average through most years. High technology industries share of the world manufacturers exporthas risen from 12 per cent in 1970 to 25 per cent in 1995. More than one-third of Japan's manufacturingexport and more than 40 per cent of America's manufacturing export are products from high technologyindustries, and this development has increasingly led to an international obsession with high technologyindustries. In a number of countries R&D indicators have by now become the object of intense discussions.Great efforts are devoted to improve a bad relative standing.The aim of this paper is to questioned whether a national specialisation towards high technology industriesis the only way by which the mature, developed countries can hope to sustain and augment their economicposition. I claim that in contrast to much of the assumptions in contemporary politics and in the majorityof the contemporary academic literature on the subject the countries without a specialisation in hightechnology industries are not left in the backwaters of economic development. Quite the contrary seemsto be the case as many advanced, high-cost countries experience an above average economic performanceeven when specialising in the bottom end of the low-tech industries.The argument is illustrated with empirical material from the wooden furniture industry in general - and therather successful Danish wooden furniture industry in particular. The possible reasons behind this apparentparadox are discussed.

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Peter Makell

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