Care Robotics in Aging Japan – Creating Technical Solutions for the World’s Demographic Problem?

Talk by Martin Rathmann (Heidelberg) that focuses on technologies that may mitigate care problems and generate new solutions to demographic issues. Kyoto University, February 5 (Mon), 2018.
Time: 17:30
Location: Faculty of Letters, Sociology Common Lab, 5th floor (社会学共同研究室)

Japan is an ideal country for studying the effects of population aging causing a wide range of societal issues ranging from labor shortages and increasing pressure on the welfare state to growing old-age related poverty and the need for improving productivity to sustain economic prosperity. The research question, this scientific exploration addresses, is what kind of technologies, generically referred to as robots, may be able to mitigate care problems and generate new solutions even further improving the general health of the Japanese population or even serve as a blueprint for other aging societies.

Therefore, the case of Japan can be utilized to describe, which strategies decision-makers facing, the challenges and opportunities caused by such a demographic transition (1) pursue to cope with the effects. The Japanese government prioritizes the large-scale introduction of robotics. The “New Robot Strategy” (NRS) a five-year policy-action plan compiled in 2015 (2) is the new tool to coordinate the support for actors in the robotics industry, to finally leverage the predicted large market potential. Whereas policy-makers are concerned with the creation of a better infrastructure for the creation of versatile robots (e.g. regulative considerations, channeling of subsidies), the bureaucracy (3) (e.g. METI, MHLW) is supposed to supervise the policy implementation and to link important public and private actors of the robotics development (e.g. universities, robot-makers, research institutes). The coordination of this triangle of three stakeholder groups will be vital for the success of the large-scale implementation of robotics to lessen the burden on caregivers, improve the average health and wellbeing and to exploit the economic potential of the silver market.

Rapidly ageing societies are a worldwide demographic phenomenon. Whatever feasible technical solution for care Japan invents for its own society is likely to have an impact elsewhere in the world.