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Why Japan is encouraging automation

Joerg Sarbach / AP

With Japan's low birth rate leading to a shortage of workers, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is encouraging investment in automation. As the NY Times points out, Japan had fewer than 1 million births last year for the first time since records began in 1899. The population is projected to fall to 80 million by 2060 — from over 120 million now.

Unemployment in Japan is just 2.8%, and in some parts of the country the majority of the population is elderly. Increased immigration could help solve the problem, but per the Times, there is little public support for it. Policy options include changing the retirement age, as well as machines that could fill the gap.

Why it matters: While robots create anxiety, they may actually be necessary as working-age populations shrink in Japan, Europe and elsewhere. There is labor that needs to be done, especially in elderly care.

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