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Japan seeks to boost employment opportunities for elderly

/ 05:45 PM September 17, 2019

TOKYO — The Japanese government will take steps to secure employment opportunities for the elderly, based on a recent survey that showed a record-high 8.62 million people aged 65 or older held jobs in 2018.

Specific measures are to be discussed by the committee on a social security system for all generations chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with its first meeting to be held as early as Friday. The government aims to support companies’ efforts to continue employing the elderly.

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According to a survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 25.8 percent of companies in 2018 had systems that allowed employees aged 70 or older to work, through such means as raising the mandatory retirement age or the age for continued employment. The figure was only 3.2 points higher than in the previous year.

The government therefore launched a policy — in the Action Plan of the Growth Strategy, compiled in June — to promote the employment of the elderly.

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Currently, companies are obliged to keep employing people who wish to work until age 65, but the plan stipulates that companies must make efforts to secure employment opportunities until age 70, via such measures as continuing employment, extending the mandatory retirement age or reemploying people at other companies. The government aims to revise the Law on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons in an ordinary Diet session next year.

The government attaches importance to the employment of elderly people because more people working even in old age will boost the vitality of society and increase the number of workers who support the social security system.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of social security reform, said at a press conference on Thursday: “Working styles are diversifying and healthy life expectancy is increasing. We’ll respond to social changes and carefully devise measures.”

Seniors more prominent

In response to the government’s policy to expand the employment of elderly people, companies are taking flexible approaches such as extending their retirement age. Against the backdrop of a serious labor shortage, the presence of senior citizens with know-how is growing stronger.

“I can live happily every day because I keep working,” said Kayoko Sato, 67, who handles mail orders at leading cosmetics company Fancl Corp.

In April 2017, Fancl lifted the age limit for reemployment, which had been until 65, with an aim to pass on the skills and experience of veteran workers to younger generations. “I want to continue working as long as I have strength and energy,” Sato said.

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Skylark Holdings Co., a major restaurant chain operator that operates Gusto and Bamiyan, extended the retirement age for part-timers from 70 to 75 in January. In addition to a labor shortage, many of its employees have been working there for many years, since they were young. Also, an increasing number of people are seeking jobs at Skylark Holdings restaurants after retiring from other companies.

At leading cosmetics company Pola Inc., 19.2 percent of its salespeople are aged 70 or older. Many of its customers are elderly, so Pola values veteran salespeople.

Reiko Mitsuboshi is the owner of a Tokyo sales outlet with nearly 50 years of experience and about 150 customers. “Work is a reason for living. I want to keep working,” Mitsuboshi said.

Taro Saito, an executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute’s Economic Research Department, said: “Companies are eager to increase the number of workers amid the labor shortage. The trend of elderly people working for a long time will continue in the future.”

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TAGS: Asia, Business, elderly, Employment, Japan, jobs, social security
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