Japan urges firms to let seniors work until 70

2020-04-02 10:52:08China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Kuho Fujie, a 68-year-old taxi driver, reckons an eight-hour shift plying the streets of Tokyo for five days a week is keeping him healthy and allowing him to age gracefully.

"Work gives you the hope for achievements. That is the key to living longer," Fujie told China Daily, adding that many of his friends fell severely ill shortly after retiring.

"This is a pattern that is often repeated by people who scrimp and save their entire lives. For me, I want to work as long as I can."

Fujie's ambitions have moved a step closer to reality with the approval on Tuesday of legislation that urges companies to let seniors keep their jobs until they turn 70.

In an effort to address a chronic labor shortage and to cover rising social security costs amid an aging and shrinking population, Japan's parliament called on businesses to try to employ older workers through various measures under the legislation.

The measures, although not mandatory, include raising or scrapping companies' retirement age or simply allowing their employees to work beyond any current age limitations.

Companies have also been urged to provide work to retirees as outsourced contractors or freelancers, as well as assigning them philanthropic tasks.

At present, Japanese companies are obliged to keep workers on until they reach 65.

Hirotake Ran, a professor of East Asian studies at Musashino University in Tokyo, said the parliamentary move was inevitable for Japan against the backdrop of the labor shortages and demographic pressures.

"Advocating the elderly to work longer is a key part of (Japanese) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's social security reform. Its aim is to oblige employers to secure job opportunities for employees until they turn 70 if they want to keep working," Ran said.

Global phenomenon

Aging societies are becoming a global phenomenon, with the United Nations projecting that by 2050, the number of people aged 80 and above will triple, from 143 million to 426 million.

Japan tops that list; those aged 65 or over account for more than 28 percent of the population and 13 percent of the work force.

"A growing number of people aged 65 and older in Japan are willing to keep their jobs due to various reasons, but a more important problem is the working environment for them because they usually face irregular employment or low salaries," Ran said.

Research by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation in December showed that 71.4 percent of Japanese approve of the idea to secure employment opportunities for those up to the age of 70. Among those aged 65 to 69. the approval rate was as high as 87 percent.

However, the study also found that the average monthly salary for people over 60 is 189,000 yen ($1,756), against an average of $3,150 for workers of all ages.

Among those aged 60 or more who are employed, 70 percent of the respondents say they are satisfied with their duties and work arrangements. But only 44 percent of them are satisfied with their salaries.


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