The coronavirus pandemic may be a drag on economies across the globe, but in Japan it’s bringing long-overdue changes in work habits and tools.
About 90 percent of refiner Idemitsu Kosan Co.’s nonmanufacturing employees have worked from home. Department store chain Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. is using video chats to offer shopping suggestions online, while smaller enterprises are embracing digital tools. Digital signatures are finally taking hold, replacing official stamps and seals.
Despite being at the forefront of technologies ranging from imaging chips to electric vehicle batteries, Japan ranked 23rd out of 63 nations in digital competitiveness last year, according to the International Institute for Management Development. While a chronic labor shortage caused by the declining population was already spurring businesses to automate, the COVID-19 outbreak is pushing the transition to the digital workplace into higher gear.