Japan bets on tech, immigration as labor disaster worsens – DW – 02/07/2024 | EUROtoday

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The first sectors to really feel the pinch of employee shortages had been nursing and aged care. The drawback quickly unfold to development and supply companies, adopted by taxi corporations, forestry firms and prepare operators.

Now, Japan’s acute scarcity of labor has unfold to the federal government sector, with the Education Ministry in late January asking native authorities to estimate what number of academics they are going to be wanting when the brand new tutorial 12 months begins in April.

Early indications usually are not optimistic, with a survey carried out final 12 months suggesting that 29 of the nation’s 68 prefectures had been already feeling the consequences of trainer shortages.

The ministry launched a 500 million yen (€3.1 million, $3.3 million) challenge final 12 months to draw extra college graduates to the educating occupation, however analysts say native governments, just like the personal sector, will wrestle to fill vacancies when younger individuals can store round for higher paying positions in the preferred cities.

And provided that Japan’s inhabitants is each getting old and contracting, with fewer youngsters being born and aged individuals residing longer because of trendy drugs, the longer-term outlook would look like bleak.

In Japan, retirees are retraining

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Medical, nursing care, transport

Analysts say that there’s little that may be accomplished to cease the gradual decline within the variety of Japanese, however they’re pinning their religion on a sector during which the nation excels: expertise.

“The medical and nursing care sectors have been most seriously affected by the shortages because demand is high as the population continues to age,” mentioned Hiroshi Yoshida, a professor within the Research Center for Aged Economy and Society at Tohoku University.

“After that, shortages are impacting the transport sector — truck and taxi drivers, public buses and trains — because the supply of young labor is very limited,” he instructed DW.

“Wages are also not so high, while the trucking sector is also going to be affected by new laws that come into effect in 2024 and limit the amount of hours that drivers can work.”

Referred to because the “2024 problem,” a examine by NK Logistics Research Institute and Consulting Inc estimates that driver shortages will imply that whole transportation capability will plummet by 34% by 2030, that means that some 940 million tons of products is not going to be delivered yearly, The Asahi newspaper reported.

It is the same story elsewhere, with a report by the Transport Ministry in 2021 indicating that the variety of taxi drivers throughout the nation had shrunk 40% from a peak in 2009.

Martin Schulz, chief coverage economist for Fujitsu’s Global Market Intelligence Unit, mentioned successive governments have recognized in regards to the looming labor disaster, however insurance policies to encourage individuals to have extra youngsters and prop up the workforce have didn’t have an effect.

“It has been a long-standing issue, of course, with governments pushing it down the line as other problems came up, most recently the coronavirus pandemic,” he mentioned.

Japan’s senior cheerleaders break age obstacles

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Women, older workers within the office

“For some time, the country was able to manage because more women were coming into the labor market and old people were encouraged to stay longer on lower wages, but there was no way to avoid the fact that the core labor market, of people aged between 20 and 65, was shrinking,” he mentioned.

That scenario was not unpopular with firms, nonetheless, as they had been capable of pad out their workforces with low-paid part-timers or older members of workers on much less beneficiant one-year rolling contracts, Schulz famous.

Now, nonetheless, there are too few extra girls to tackle, and the oldest staff are lastly retiring.

And as a consequence, not solely are firms wanting workers, however their staff are demanding larger wages as a result of they know there are different jobs on the market in the event that they depart their current firm.

One answer that the Japanese authorities has tried — albeit tentatively — has been to introduce simpler immigration guidelines to allow overseas laborers to fill a number of the gaps. In 2019, a system was launched to permit restricted numbers of expert employees in sectors that had been most acutely wanting workers to enter for 5 years, whereas these categorised as being “highly skilled” got the possibility to settle completely in Japan.

Tokyo anticipated a rush of candidates and 345,000 arrivals within the first 5 years.

Disappointingly, the determine hovered round 3,000 arrivals a month for the primary 12 months, at which level coming into the nation turned much more troublesome due to the pandemic.

Japan’s wholesome youngsters

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Undeterred, the federal government introduced on Monday that it’ll add one other 4 classes to the listing of expert employees, with extra visas obtainable to anybody with a background as bus or taxi driver, prepare operator or within the forestry and timber industries.

Yoshida will not be satisfied that immigration is the reply, nonetheless.

“Japan does not have a mature culture that is welcoming to foreign workers, and the language is also a problem,” he mentioned. “In addition, it may no longer be easy to attract foreign workers from other East Asian countries because those nations are also experiencing declining fertility rates.”

Advanced applied sciences

The answer seems to be in higher uptake in superior applied sciences, an space during which Japan stays a world chief, together with automation, robotics and, most promisingly, AI, he mentioned, which is able to each scale back the necessity for employees and lower firms’ wage prices.

Schulz agrees, mentioning that generative AI is already bridging the language divide and evolving and bettering on a regular basis.

“Japan’s population is shrinking at a rate equivalent to losing a city the size of Frankfurt every year,” he mentioned. “Filling positions has become an acute problem, but we are seeing tremendous changes here now. Robots are serving in many restaurants now, and there are no signs of any resistance to that technology being adopted,” the economist identified.

“Generative AI is similarly becoming understood and accepted and is arguably exactly what an aging society requires.”

Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru