A resident of the Silver Wing Social Care elderly care home in Tokyos Chuo Ward chats happily to a staff member in the facilitys communal area, while in a nearby room another senior is being helped by a rehabilitation specialist to walk again after a fall last month. These workers never take a day off, never complain and dont need to be paid, for they are robots.
Silver Wing Social Care provides a glimpse into the future of Japan and indeed other industrialised nations as they follow its path to ageing societies and labour shortages. The companys flagship care facility began using robots to help care for residents four years ago after being selected by the city government as a test project.
Japan is entering uncharted territory for a modern economy. A consistently low birth rate has shrunk the working-age population by around 10 million since its mid-1990s peak, with another 20 million set to disappear from workplaces in the coming decades. The situation is becoming critical, with nearly 1.5 vacancies for every jobseeker and chronic shortages in sectors such as nursing care, manufacturing, construction and parcel delivery.
At a time when the government is pressuring companies to cut infamously long working hours, raise wages and ensure holidays are taken, and in a country still unwilling to countenance mass immigration, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) look to be the only solutions.
We tried out various kinds of robots to see which would work best for us. Weve gradually increased their use and now have 20 different models operating, including robots for nursing care, rehabilitation, communication and recreation, explains Silver Wings Yukari Sekiguchi, who oversees the programme.
The companys staff used to regularly injure their backs lifting residents, leading to them being off work or quitting the profession altogether, a major problem given the tight labour market. Workers can now use robots they stand inside to help them do such heavy lifting.
A lot of people thought that elderly people would be scared or uncomfortable with robots, but they are actually very interested and interact naturally with them. They really enjoy talking to them and their motivation goes up when they use the rehabilitation robots, helping them to walk again more quickly, says Sekiguchi.
Japan may be the best-placed country to cope with the advance of automation its likely to cause less unemployment than elsewhere, given the shortage of workers and lifetime employment practises. Unemployment has fallen to 2.8 per cent and a record-high 97.6 per cent of new university graduates found jobs by the start of the business year in April.
The situation should be a boon for workers, but gains are being distributed unequally. Despite the tight labour market and many companies logging record profits, wage inflation remains stubbornly sluggish.
There is a shortage of manual workers, but an excess of white-collar workers, especially middle-aged men, says Naohiro Yashiro, a labour economist and dean of the Global Business Department Showa Womens University in Tokyo.
The government has set an inflation target, but its not happening yet. My explanation of this mystery is there is a kind of structural reform going on. The seniority based wage system, whereby employees wages in Japan rise rapidly with their age is not sustainable anymore, with the ageing of the population, says Yashiro, an adviser on labour economics to three prime ministers.
Companies are thus trying to halt automatic salary raises for workers in their 40s and 50s, and increase pay for younger ones, with one largely offsetting the other, according to Yashiro.
It is these mid-level workers who would normally be most at threat from the oncoming wave of robotics, AI and other new technologies. But in Japan, they should be saved from unemployment, if not wage stagnation, according to Dr Martin Schulz, senior economist at the Fujitsu Research Institute.
Much of the debate about automation squeezing workers out of the labour market is not an issue in Japan. Wages at the lower end wont be squeezed much because automation is costly, so the cheapest workers wont be replaced. At the top end, people with skills are usually helped by digitalisation because they benefit from new systems, says Schulz.
The squeeze would be at the mid-level. But they are comparatively protected in Japan by labour regulations. So they are not hit as hard as they are in, for example, the UK or US, where we are seeing political disruptions as a result of this, says Schulz, referring to the Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump.
But neither the governments employment reforms nor automation are the solution to Japans labour problems, according to Toyonori Sugita, owner of Daimaru Seisakusho, a metalworking factory just outside Tokyo.
If we put up wages and reduced hours as the government is suggesting, wed go bankrupt. But the shortage of workers in technical industries is terrible now, says Sugita, who is looking at bringing back skilled workers in their 70s.
Automation isnt the answer either. The type of work that can be automated is going overseas to other Asian countries; work that requires high levels of technical skills is what remains in Japan and can be profitable, says Sugita.
We need more workers from overseas, from the Philippines and places like that. If the government is going to do something, it should promote that, adds Sugita.
But with advocating mass immigration still seen as political suicide in Japan, the march of the robots looks set to continue.
- Artificial Intelligence in Government: Global Markets 2020-2025 - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - August 31st, 2020
- Import Screening Pilot Unleashes the Power of Data - FDA.gov - August 31st, 2020
- Supercharge vegetation management and outage prediction with artificial intelligence - Utility Dive - August 31st, 2020
- Automation, artificial intelligence to be central in the post-Covid world - Economic Times - August 31st, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Is the Next Top Gun - Bloomberg - August 31st, 2020
- Defense Innovation Unit Teaching Artificial Intelligence to Detect Cancer - Department of Defense - August 31st, 2020
- Toward a machine learning model that can reason about everyday actions - MIT News - August 31st, 2020
- How Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we search and find online - ITProPortal - August 31st, 2020
- TikTok Assets Cant Be Sold Without Chinas Approval - Bloomberg - August 31st, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence in Oil and Gas Market Global Size, Growth and Demand 2020 to 2030 - The News Brok - August 31st, 2020
- Rage Against the Algorithm: the Risks of Overestimating Military Artificial Intelligence - Chatham House - August 31st, 2020
- U of I to lead two of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes - University of Illinois News - August 31st, 2020
- Holocaust survivors will be able to share their stories after death thanks to a new project - 60 Minutes - CBS News - August 31st, 2020
- Funding boost for artificial intelligence in NHS to speed up diagnosis of deadly diseases - GOV.UK - August 31st, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Identifies 80,000 Spiral Galaxies Promises More Astronomical Discoveries in the Future - SciTechDaily - August 31st, 2020
- Is Artificial intelligence the Future of IT Help Desk? - Analytics Insight - August 10th, 2020
- Experts Are Divided Over Future Of Artificial Intelligence But Agree On Its Growing Impact - Outlook India - August 10th, 2020
- "Artificial Intelligence Will Make Medicine Better in the Long Run" - Biophotonics.World - August 10th, 2020
- How machine learning and artificial intelligence can drive clinical innovation - PharmaLive - August 10th, 2020
- Top Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Investments in July 2020 - Analytics Insight - August 10th, 2020
- Job interviews: Recruiters are using artificial intelligence to analyse what you say to find the right hire - TechRepublic - August 10th, 2020
- The next frontier of human-robot relationships is building trust - Scroll.in - August 8th, 2020
- Game-Changing Artificial Intelligence Solution by PhotoShelter to Revolutionize Social Media Workflow as Premier Lacrosse League Returns to the Field... - August 8th, 2020
- How Artificial Intelligence is Helping to Fight against Coronavirus in India? - Analytics Insight - August 8th, 2020
- BLOG: How to capitalise on the Artificial Intelligence theme - Your Money - Your Money - August 8th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence and Its Partners - Modern Diplomacy - August 8th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence isnt destroying jobs, its making them more inclusive - The Globe and Mail - August 8th, 2020
- RadNet and Hologic Announce Collaboration to Advance the Development of Artificial Intelligence Tools in Breast Health - GlobeNewswire - August 7th, 2020
- COVID-19 Impacts: Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Service (AIaaS) Market Will Accelerate at a CAGR of Over 48% Through 2020-2024|Growing Adoption of... - August 7th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence in Business: The New Normal in Testing Times - Analytics Insight - August 7th, 2020
- VIEW: Digitisation in pathology and the promise of artificial intelligence - CNBCTV18 - August 7th, 2020
- What It Means to Be Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence - Medium - August 7th, 2020
- Not so Artificial Intelligence When is AI really AI? - EFTM - August 3rd, 2020
- IMD to explore artificial intelligence to improve forecasting, predict extreme weather events - Firstpost - August 3rd, 2020
- Examples of Failure in Artificial Intelligence - ReadWrite - August 3rd, 2020
- IMD plans to use artificial intelligence in weather forecasting - The Financial Express - August 3rd, 2020
- MLOps: What You Need To Know - Forbes - August 3rd, 2020
- Postdoctoral Research Associate in Artificial Intelligence job with DURHAM UNIVERSITY | 215559 - Times Higher Education (THE) - August 3rd, 2020
- How do CEO's Succeed with Artificial Intelligence at their Workplace? - Analytics Insight - August 3rd, 2020
- The future of Artificial Intelligence and what it means to the Enterprise? - Analytics Insight - August 3rd, 2020
- Artificial intelligence helps lead decisions over Intelligent automation and - 401kTV - August 3rd, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence and civil liability. Who pays the damages? - Lexology - August 3rd, 2020
- The AI-boost: Using more artificial intelligence will boost GDP growth - The Financial Express - August 3rd, 2020
- $19.9B Artificial Intelligence in Retail Industry, 2027 - Rising Focus on Blockchain and Adoption of 5G Technology - Yahoo Finance - August 3rd, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Loses Some Of Its Edginess, But Is Poised To Take Off - Forbes - July 31st, 2020
- How artificial intelligence is transforming the world in the current pandemic situation? - Geospatial World - July 31st, 2020
- The NBA will use artificial intelligence and a tap-to-cheer app feature to help fans stuck at home get in the game - CNN - July 31st, 2020
- Different Scopes Of Artificial Intelligence To Dive In With! - Inventiva - July 31st, 2020
- Gatling Exploration to use artificial intelligence to identify possible gold targets at the Larder project in Ontario - Proactive Investors USA &... - July 31st, 2020
- Elon Musk Thinks that Artificial Intelligence Will Be 'Vastly Smarter' Than Humans in 5 Years - News18 - July 31st, 2020
- Church body recommends restrictions on Artificial Intelligence - The Tablet - July 31st, 2020
- How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Breaking Artificial Intelligence and How to Fix It - Gizmodo - July 31st, 2020
- Using artificial intelligence to smell the roses - UC Riverside - July 30th, 2020
- Shield AI Recognized As One of the Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies - PR Web - July 30th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence needs an update on ethics to be able to help humanity in times of crisis - Economic Times - July 30th, 2020
- Reshaping Artificial Intelligence with the Help of Affordances - Analytics Insight - July 29th, 2020
- WISeKey to Showcase its Cybersecurity Solutions for Artificial Intelligence Used in Drones and Robots at SIDO 2020 - GlobeNewswire - July 28th, 2020
- GPT-3: The Next Revolution in Artificial Intelligence - Analytics Insight - July 28th, 2020
- FLY AI: the role of artificial intelligence in aviation - Airport Technology - July 28th, 2020
- Four university experts use Artificial Intelligence to discover that children don't like going to school on Mondays in Milton Keynes - Milton Keynes... - July 28th, 2020
- UF Announces $70 Million Artificial Intelligence Partnership with NVIDIA - University of Florida - July 28th, 2020
- People are using artificial intelligence to help sort out their divorce. Would you? - The Conversation AU - July 28th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Is the Hope 2020 Needs - Bloomberg - July 28th, 2020
- Top Five Data Privacy Issues that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Startups Need to Know - insideBIGDATA - July 28th, 2020
- I Am a Model and I Know That Artificial Intelligence Will Eventually Take My Job - Vogue.com - July 28th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing Market Worth $16.7 Billion by 2026 - Exclusive Report by MarketsandMarkets - PRNewswire - July 28th, 2020
- The Global Artificial Intelligence in Accounting Market is expected to grow from USD 884.99 Million in 2019 to USD 4,779.11 Million by the end of 2025... - July 28th, 2020
- Imint is the Swedish firm that gives Chinese smartphones an edge in video production - TechCrunch - July 26th, 2020
- UF students, get used to this topic: artificial intelligence - Tampa Bay Times - July 26th, 2020
- Odisha to use artificial intelligence in organisation audit in big way - The New Indian Express - July 26th, 2020
- Covid could have been AIs moment in sun. But it isnt as flexible as humans yet - ThePrint - July 26th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence is the hope 2020 needs | Commentary | Seattle Times - Walla Walla Union-Bulletin - July 26th, 2020
- Could this software help users trust machine learning decisions? - C4ISRNet - July 26th, 2020
- Exploring the edge cases of artificial intelligence in 2020 - TechHQ - July 26th, 2020
- How artificial intelligence is being used for divorce and separations with apps like Amica, Adieu and Penda - Newcastle Herald - July 26th, 2020
- Tech Q&A: Artificial Intelligence Has Promise of Streamlining Hospital Processes, Diagnostic Tools - MedTech Intelligence - July 26th, 2020
- Global Artificial Intelligence for Automotive Market 2020 Size, Share, Trends, Growth and Outlook with Company Analysis and Forecast to 2026 - Express... - July 26th, 2020
- Global Automotive Artificial Intelligence Market Analysis by Emerging Trends, Size, Share, Future Growth, Current Statistics, Brand Endorsements and... - July 26th, 2020
- Opinion: Artificial intelligence is the hope 2020 needs - Crain's Cleveland Business - July 26th, 2020
- AI in the Field of Transportation - a Review - AI Daily - July 26th, 2020