Japan’s next boom may be at hand, driven by the very thing that is supposed to be bad for its economy.
Japan’s aging and shrinking population has been partly blamed for the on-again, off-again nature of growth and deflation the past three decades. Lately, it’s been driving a different and just as powerful idea: In the absence of large-scale immigration, the only viable solution for many domestic industries is to plow money into robots and information technology more generally.
Humans will still be needed, of course, and that’s behind a separate by-product of Japan’s demographic challenges that I wrote about during a visit there last month. With unemployment down to 2.8 percent, companies are increasingly realizing they need to pay up to attract and keep qualified personnel. The other option — increased immigration — is politically difficult.