Labour short Japan more at home with automation than US

By , on August 16, 2017


It would be hard to find a culture that celebrates robots more. Japanese consumers have even flocked to buy companion robots from the internet company SoftBank and Toyota Motor Corp., among others.  (Pixabay photo)
It would be hard to find a culture that celebrates robots more. Japanese consumers have even flocked to buy companion robots from the internet company SoftBank and Toyota Motor Corp., among others.
(Pixabay photo)

MORIYA, Japan — The debate over machines snatching jobs from people is muted in Japan, where birth rates have been sinking for decades, raising fears of a labour shortage.

It would be hard to find a culture that celebrates robots more. Japanese consumers have even flocked to buy companion robots from the internet company SoftBank and Toyota Motor Corp., among others.

Japan, which forged a big push toward robotics in the 1990s, leads the world in robots per 10,000 workers in the auto sector.

One factor in Japan’s different take on automation is the “lifetime employment” system. Major Japanese companies generally retain workers even if their abilities become outdated.

The system also trains them for other tasks within the same company instead of eliminating them.

This is part of the first installment of Future of Work, an Associated Press series that will explore how workplaces across the U.S. and the world are being transformed by technology and global pressures. As more employers move, shrink or revamp their work sites, many employees are struggling to adapt. At the same time, workers with in-demand skills or knowledge are benefiting. Advanced training, education or know-how is becoming a required ticket to the 21st-century workplace.