An interesting phenomenon is taking place in Japan which is raising a few eyebrows amongst developed countries which are experiencing serious shrinking populations. Countries like Russia, Greece, Germany, Italy and Japan are engaged in solving the demographic problem of a dwindling population growth rate. Of all these countries, Japan is a typical case to study.
On July 2007, Japan had a total population of 127.4 million. This is not a bad figure for a world economic power. The problem is that 21 percent of Japan’s population is 65 years or older. Another alarming statistics is that the median age of Japan’s population is 43.5 years.
During 2007 the population growth rate was -0.088 percent. This means more people were dying which were not replaced by new births. United Nation’s demographers agree that Japan’s population is projected to fall between 95 to 100 millions by 2050 if current trend continues.
Japanese women have cited inadequate child care, low part-time wages and long hours worked by their husbands as some of the reasons whey they do not have any children or only have one. Other Japanese women say in surveys that they want two children, but they delay or abstain from marriage and motherhood in astonishing numbers because fathers don’t help around the house, because mothers feel isolated in tiny apartments and because it’s so hard for a woman to combine career and motherhood.
As you can infer from referred numbers, Japan’s population is aging and decreasing in numbers. This abnormal situation originates many complex problems which require careful planning.
Faced with prospect of having an alarming aging population, a country could choose to fight (raise the birthrate) or cope (prepare to manage the consequences). Japan has decided to tackle the former. They have decided to use robots to help solve the problem.
Robots are already taken for granted in Japanese factories, so much so that they are sometimes welcomed on their first day at work with Shinto religious ceremonies. Robots make sushi. Robots plant rice and tend paddies.
There are robots serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, spoon-feeding the elderly. They serve tea, greet company guests and chatter away at public technology displays. Now startups are marching out robotic home helpers.
For Japan, the robotics revolution is an imperative. With more than a fifth of the population 65 or older, the country is banking on robots to replenish the work force and care for the elderly.
Besides financial and technological power, the robot wave is favored by the Japanese mind-set as well. Robots have long been portrayed as friendly helpers in Japanese popular culture, a far cry from the often rebellious and violent machines that often inhabit Western science fiction.
Japan is already an industrial robot powerhouse. Over 370,000 robots worked at factories across Japan in 2005, about 40 percent of the global total and 32 robots for every 1,000 Japanese manufacturing employees, according to a recent report by Macquarie, which had no numbers from subsequent years.