In Japan, Robots Tackle the Dirty Work

As workforce shrinks, machines gain favor over immigrants
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2007 12:13 PM CST
A humanoid robot, without its facial skin, is displayed at Japan's largest robot convention in Tokyo Wednesday Nov. 28, 2007. The life-size dental training robot, dubbed Simroid for "simulator humanoid,"...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – With the birthrate sinking and the government showing no inclination to loosen immigration restrictions, Japanese businesses are turning to science for help with the impending worker shortage. The London Times visits a Tokyo exhibition that showcases the possible answer: robots. "Robots do the D-work"--dirty, dangerous, and difficult--"that Japanese shy away from," one proponent says.

Japan would need to admit 500,000 immigrants a year to keep its workforce steady, but the country has shown little interest. Instead, it's frenetically investing in the versatile machines. They perform jobs that until now have been done by humans--a waiter in a bow tie offers menu suggestions, while the Lady Bird takes on the unsavory chore of cleaning highway rest stop bathrooms. (Read more robot stories.)