Japan’s unemployment rate is at it’s lowest in 21 years. While the government is quick to claim this as a success, the Japan Research Institute, says that the numbers are less about people being employed, and more about a shrinking workforce.
Using metrics such as the amount of applications for jobs vs those who are genuinely employed, those retiring and the nature of various jobs, the Institute has demonstrated that what may be seen as a positive, is actually more the impact of an ageing population than of solid economic policy. The government is likely aware of this, and is putting measures in place to encourage citizens to work beyond retirement age, something that is popular in Japan, with one of the most active groups of senior citizens in the world.
Innovation in this area, has come from one of the most unlikely sources – a logistics firm. Tatsumi Shokai Logistics, Employs over 700 people across its sites, and has a significant amount of long-term employees – and therefore a disproportionate amount of older workers. In partnership with various technology firms, the business has created a robotic exoskeleton, to assist manual workers, who may be experiencing, or prone to pain or discomfort.
The appendage, which is relatively sleek, enables workers to lift without strain – essentially becoming operators rather than manual labourers, and can increase workplace tenures for a substantial period of time, also reducing the risk of injury and strain caused by repetitive stress, something that Tatsumi Shokai believes, if rolled out across multiple industries, will reduce the impact of an ageing population on the health service, as well as the economy.
The feedback from workers has been positive and as 57-year-old Kenji Takemura says, ” I hope to be able to work another 10 years through using the suit.”
That will be music to the government’s ears.