Japanese Robot Development Driven By Xenophobia

Reading a term paper by one of my Växjö students, I learned something surprising.

Being a well-read and erudite sort, Dear Reader, you may not be surprised. You already know that Japanese women have been having very few babies each since the 1950s, and that thus there’s a growing shortage of strong young people to work in the care for the elderly. It has gone so far, and the prognosis is so dire, that the Japanese electronics industry is busy developing robots to care for old folks.

What I learned is that the problem is really one of xenophobia. All of Japan’s neighbouring countries across the sea have a completely different demography and offer an endless supply of nursing staff. But it’s politically impossible to lower the bar for entry onto the Japanese labour market. Foreign nursing certificates aren’t recognised. The Japanese voter prefers to have simple automatons caring for grandma when the alternative is a darker-complexioned Philippine person who doesn’t speak Japanese.

Seen from the larger ecological perspective, Japan is simply an isolated human population that is not reproducing well and so will soon be unable to fill its niche. I’m pretty sure neighbouring populations will redress this imbalance within a few decades.

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