Desperate to overcome Japan’s growing shortage of labor, mid-sized companies are planning to buy robots and other equipment to automate a wide range of tasks, including manufacturing, earthmoving and hotel room service.
“The share of capital expenditure devoted to becoming more efficient is increasing because of the shortage of workers,” said Seiichiro Inoue, a director in the industrial policy bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, or METI.
If the investment ambitions are fulfilled it would show there is a silver lining as Japan tries to cope with a shrinking and rapidly aging population. It could help equipment-makers, lift the country’s low productivity and boost economic growth.
The government predicts investment in labor-saving equipment will rise this fiscal year, Inoue said.
The way Japan copes with an aging population will provide critical lessons for other aging societies, including China and South Korea, that will have to grapple with similar challenges in coming years.
I – Word Understanding
Silver lining – the positive aspect or hope in a bad situation
II – Have Your Say
1. On Japan’s labor shortage, possible solutions are:
a. Hiring foreign workers
b. Hiring Japanese women and able retirees
c. Robots / Automation
2. On robots:
a. Robots could solve the issue of karoshi
b. Less human workers mean less tax revenue. Should robots be taxed?
3. The Hen na Hotel, or the “Odd Hotel,” near Tokyo Disneyland, bills itself as a robot hotel because it uses 140 different robots and artificial intelligence to serve guests in its 100-room hotel and can operate with as few as two to three people, according to the manager Yukio Nagai. Would you like to try this hotel?