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Japan Study Suggests Corporate AI Investments Will Outstrip Competitors By 20% In Productivity

Japan as photographed by Envisat. Photograph courtesy of the European Space Agency.

A Japanese government white paper submitted to the Japanese cabinet on 3 August 2018 claims that Japanese companies that invest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies that develop employee skills, and result in labour-saving innovations, stand to out-compete their non-AI competitors by up to 20 per-cent in terms of productivity.

Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese minister for Economics and Fiscal Policy, presented the white paper to his cabinet colleagues as part of a wider government effort to encourage Japanese private industry to invest more in AI research and development, and to adopt AI technologies.

Japan is facing a growing demographic crisis with a rapidly ageing population and one of the lowest birth rates in the world. Japanese policy makers and analysts believe that AI-enabled technologies such as robotics and smart software can, in the coming decades, take over work traditionally done by human beings.

As an insular society, many Japanese people have deep reservations about allowing more non-Japanese immigrants into the country to fill the vacancies that, if not arrested, the looming demographic crunch will create.

The white paper claims that AI could replace human workers in a number of skill-sets and professions in the coming years, to include reception and secretarial duties, back-office work such as human resources, business administration, and book-keeping among others.

The document encourages Japanese employers to nurture those employees with AI-related skills and qualifications, and predicts that such workers stand to earn significantly more than others without any AI skills or qualifications. Further, the white paper emphasizes that Japanese universities and other higher education institutions offer more AI courses.

For those skills and jobs that AI-enabled technologies cannot do in the foreseeable future, the white paper suggests that Japanese companies that fully train employees in those areas will see up to a 20 per-cent boost in overall productivity compared to competitors who do not train employees.

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