Japan’s seniors work on into retirement



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Sunday 18 November 2012

Last update 18 November 2012 5:37 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

SIX DAYS A WEEK, winter or summer, 73-year-old Mitsumi Kobuna gets up at 5 a.m. to go to Tsukiji fish market to stock up his family-run stall.
He will be at work for around 15 hours, in a job he has done for 55 years. He has noticed his body slowing in the last decade or so, but would really like to carry on for two or three more years.
While governments in Europe have struggled to convince their populations to delay retirement, Japan has found no such resistance, and people like Kobuna are not unusual.
Men in Japan work until they are 69 on average, five years longer than the developed countries club of the OECD and a full decade longer than their counterparts in France.
Japanese women retire at a mean age of 67 against an OECD average of 63.
Observers say people prepared to work longer and later in life are increasingly necessary in Japan, where shrinking numbers of taxpayers find themselves supporting a population of elderly that is both growing and living longer.
Already around a quarter of Japan’s people are over 65, a figure the government estimates will rise to 40 percent within half a century.
Without the immigrant workforce that many developed countries have, getting people to stay at work is seen by many as one of Japan’s only options if it is to pay for its own population.
But for many of those in the autumn of their lives, their jobs are not merely a chore to be endured but rather a source of pride, and something that gives them energy.
“If I stopped work, I would feel old,” said Koji Sato, who runs a tea shop in Tokyo.
At 75, Sato says he works 12 hours a day and frequently seven days a week.
“I’ve been doing this for 50 years,” he said. “I’m slowing down gradually, but the day I stop, that will be the end of me.” This attitude is common in many Japanese who grew up in the austerity of the post-war years, when a devastated shell of a country was transformed by the sheer effort of its people into a booming, world-beating economy in less than two decades.
For Kenji Wada, a 73-year-old lawyer who specializes in industrial patents, his job is about so much more than the pay he brings home.
“Money is secondary,” he said. “The key is to be doing something useful in society.” He said that in the 40 years he has been running his practice he has worked for many different companies.
“They entrust me to handle things, no matter how old I am.”
Shigeru Oki, director of the Business Policy forum, a government-backed think-tank, said working longer was a way to feel useful.
“Some seniors cite economic reasons but it’s not the only reason. According to our surveys, they often said they wanted to have something to live for, remain connected to society and maintain health.” In August and without much fanfare, the government passed a law that comes into effect in stages requiring companies to let their employees continue working until they are 65. They also raised the age at which pension payments begin, to 65, by 2025.

People are allowed to continue working beyond that age, provided their employer is willing to employ them.
“Seniors know that the pension system has become a burden on younger generations due to the decline in childbirths,” said Oki.
“They feel they can accept delays in pension payments up to the age of 65 or so in the face of the country’s bad financial situation. Besides, people in their 60s are (today) much more vibrant than those in the past.” Months of protests greeted then-president Nicolas Sarkozy when he raised France’s age of retirement progressively to 62 from 60 in 2010.
Moves in Greece to hike to 67 the age at which people can retire have been part of a wildly unpopular austerity package that has seen sometimes-violent street protests and a series of strikes.
The outcry in Europe stands in marked contrast to Japan, where there was barely a murmur. Work is just something one does, and does not complain about it.
“I’ve never really considered if my work is fun or not,” said Seichiro Fukui, who for 41 of his 64 years has worked as an insurance broker, an estate agent and a vendor of rice cakes.
“My father toiled until he was 80 years old and I intend to work until I drop. My life is built like that and it’s not going to change now.” And here, for many ageing Japanese, is the nub of the problem: in a society built so firmly around work, where is meaning to be found in retirement? For Fukui, the answer is to carry on.
“I don’t know what I would do with myself if I retired.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

Huge projects change the faces of cities and great ambitions help create such projects. Madinah had its date with a quantum leap to usher in a new era of urban development. Such huge projects help achieve formidable civilization advancements and sign...
RIYADH: The Japanese ambassador to the Kingdom, Noriheiro Okoda, has held a meeting with Hashem Abdullah Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), and discussed bilateral cooperation in the fields of atom...
AL-BAHA: Forty three percent of Al-Baha cannot be developed easily because of the region’s mountainous terrain.This is the view of Khaled Al-Sayegh, undersecretary for construction at the municipality, who was speaking at an event held at the College...
JEDDAH: An official at the Council of Saudi Chambers said the council’s members are discussing a regulation to submit to the Ministry of Labor and other government agencies to deny a number of privileges to companies that force its labor to work unde...
ABHA: With many families wanting new furniture during Ramadan, furniture and interior decorating shops are raising prices to more than double what they were before the month.Homeowner Zaina Mohammed says she used to change her home furniture every Ra...
RIYADH: Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) President Prince Sultan bin Salman described the first visit by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Madinah as “historic.”In his comments following the visit which saw th...
MADINAH: Economists expected the volume of investments in Madinah’s economies during the coming few years to reach SR500 billion.The forecasted growth in the population, to reach 2.6 million people after 25 years, and the number of visitors to 12.2 m...
JEDDAH: It seems that many Saudi families are gradually coming to terms with the new reality of living in apartments, as building villas is not possible due to shortage of appropriate land.With the increasing display of housing units by the Ministry...
RIYADH: Migrant rights advocacy group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) has lambasted their country’s leadership over the claim that the number of overseas Filipino workers are declining due to sustained economic growth in the Philippines.The group has cal...
RIYADH: A charitable foundation called “Smile” will be launched on Sunday night at the Al-Hokair Land in the Saudi capital to make people happy. “The foundation will be launched to make Saudi Arabia a center of smiles,” well-known television host and...
MAKKAH: The Kingdom has seen a sharp rise in the number of Umrah pilgrims to around 6 million from 1.5 million in the last 16 years. Moreover, the number of pilgrims overstaying their visas has come down to about 1 percent. The Ministry of Haj has be...
RIYADH: The King Khalid Foundation (KKF) said here recently that it has financed small enterprises (SMEs) run by 130 widows in some of the Kingdom’s provinces.KKF hosted an iftar party last week for local media at its headquarters in Riyadh at which...
JEDDAH: Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaed, governor of the Northern Borders province, has died.He will be buried after Taraweeh prayers in Jeddah on Saturday, the Royal Court said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. No other det...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Education has suspended all parallel education programs, except in medical and engineering specialties, as well as bridging programs for health diploma certificates.Education Minister Azzam Al-Dhakil gave directions to the rec...
RIYADH: The Cooperative Health Insurance Council said it had suspended operations of six medical insurance companies for violating health insurance regulations by issuing insurance policies without completing the required documentation and violating...

Stay Connected

Facebook