The coronavirus pandemic may be a drag on economies across the globe, but in Japan it’s bringing long-overdue change in work habits and tools.
About 90% of Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan Co.’s non-manufacturing 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 emracing 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 a declining population was already spurring businesses to automate, the Covid-19 outbreak is pushing the transition to the digital workplace into higher gear.
“Many companies small and large have talked about digitization as being important, but put it off,” said Miku Hirano, chief executive officer of Cinnamon Inc., a provider of AI-based business-solution services. “Now, the pandemic is making them take up the mission.”
65,490 in U.S.Most new cases today
-5% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23
-1.144 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23
4.4% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), June