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In terms of labour, for decades the relatively low cost and high quality of Japanese
workers conferred considerable competitive advantage across numerous durable goods
and consumer-electronics industries (eg. Machinery, automobiles, televisions, radios).
Then labour-based advantages shifted to South Korea, then to Malaysia, Mexico and
other nations. Today, China appears to be capitalizing best on the basic of labour,
Japanese firms still remain competitive in markets for such durable goods, electronics
and other products, but the labour force is no longer sufficient for competitive advantage over manufacturers in other industrializing nations. Such shifting of labour-based
advantage is clearly not limited to manufacturing industries. Today a huge number of IT
and service jobs are moving from Europe and North America to India, Singapore, and
like countries with relatively well-educated, low-cost workforces possessing technical
skills. However, as educational levels and technical skills continue to rise in other countries, India, Singapore and like nations enjoying labour-based competitive advantage
today are likely to find such advantage cannot be sustained through emergence of new
In terms of capital, for centuries the days of gold coin and later even paper money restricted financial flows. Subsequently regional concentrations were formed where large banks, industries and markets coalesced. But today capital flows internationally at rapid speed. Global commerce no longer requires regional interactions among business players. Regional capital concentrations in places such as New York, London and Tokyo still persist, of course, but the capital concentrated there is no longer sufficient for competitive advantage over other capitalists distributed worldwide. Only if an organization is able to combine, integrate and apply its resources (eg. Land, labour, capital, IT) in an effective manner that is not readily imitable by competitors can such an organization enjoy competitive advantage sustainable overtime.
In a knowledge-based theory of the firm, this idea is extended to view organizational knowledge as resource with at least the same level of power and importance as the traditional economic inputs. An organization with superior knowledge can achieve competitive advantage in markets that appreciate the application of such knowledge. Semiconductors, genetic engineering, pharmaceuticals, software, military warfare, and like knowledge-intensive competitive arenas provide both time-proven and current examples. Consider semiconductors (e. g. computer chips), which are made principally of sand and common metals, these ubiquitous and powerful electronics devices are designed within common office buildings, using commercially available tools, and fabricated within factories in many industrialized nations. Hence, land is not the key competitive recourse in the semiconductor industry.