Unlike the U.S., Japan has an official Robot Strategy. It consists of three major initiatives:
1. Make Japan the world’s center of robot innovation by improving robot creation skills across the nation.
2. Make Japan the world leader in actually using robots in more settings, not just.
3. Make Japan a leader in robotics IoT.
Workers in Japan aren’t fearful of robots as so many are in the U.S. At 3% unemployment, Japan is already at full employment. Economists figure that 3% of the population is the percentage that will typically choose not to work. This figure normally includes women staying home with children, students on break, and so on. 3% is therefore the figure commonly used for full employment. Japan therefore has a lack of workers.
How can Japanese industry continue to grow with a lack of human workers? They’re banking on robots.
A lack of fear of robots is a clear advantage for Japan, especially in their goal #2: using robots in healthcare and service sectors as well as manufacturing. Japanese industry leaders specifically credit manga characters Astro Boy and Doraemon for this positive attitude toward robots among the Japanese people. Astroboy, an android superhero who saves humans from danger, was the inspiration for humanoid robot Pepper. Doraemon is a robotic cat who travels back in time to help its owner’s ancestors. Compare these gentle robots with the Terminator, and you can see why Japanese consumers are more accepting of robots than American consumers.
In Japan, robots are involved in food preparation, elder care, and retail, as well as in factories.
President Obama’s National Robotics Initiative put millions into collaborative robots, but he also warned Congress of the danger of job loss to robots. Japan, which has strict immigration controls and a falling population, may be able to see robots as a solution rather than a problem, but that may be more difficult in the U.S.
And that may be a major advantage for Japan.