Faced with their worst labor shortage in decades, Japanese service companies are finally turning to labor-saving technology, an investment that could lift the sector's woeful level of productivity and allow them to raise wages.

While the nation's manufacturers are renowned for deploying advanced robotics, most domestic-focused services companies have fallen behind in information technology investment, put off by a stagnant economy, restrictive labor rules and a shrinking domestic market. But as the workforce declines and the nation ages, businesses in areas like nursing and retail have found it harder to attract and keep staff.

As Partners Co. is among companies looking to software for a solution. It plans to spend about ¥300 million to install new technology at its 15 nursing homes in and around Tokyo to make life easier for staff and residents. At its sleek new Asheim Nerima Garden home, caregivers can monitor the health of dozens of residents from smartphones, receiving notifications if anyone so much as sits up in bed.