Japan, short of workers, eyes hiking optional pension age beyond 70

A man works a machine at a factory in one of Japan's provinces. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Japan, short of workers, eyes hiking optional pension age beyond 70

TOKYO: Japan has okayed plans to let people choose to start drawing their state pensions beyond the age of 70 as it grapples with severe labor shortages, ballooning welfare costs and a shrivelling tax base stemming from its greying population.
The government said on Friday it would look to cement the proposals through legal changes after April 2020, adding that it would look at raising in stages the mandatory retirement age for some 3.4 million civil servants to 65 from the current 60.
Japanese people can currently choose to start receiving their pensions at any point between the ages of 60 and 70, with bigger monthly payments offered to those who do so after their 65th birthdays.
The policies may offer clues to how countries from Germany and Italy to China and South Korea could deal with the challenges sparked by their own aging societies, from a lack of workers to spiralling welfare spending.
Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy, while the number of births last year fell to their lowest since records began over a century ago. Its population will shrink to 88 million from the current 127 million in the next four decades, the government estimates.
The grim demographics, coupled with a reluctance to loosen tight immigration rules, have led to the worst labor shortages since the early 1970s. The squeeze stifles the potency of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, the International Monetary Fund has said.
Abe has pushed for more elderly people to remain in work and stay active in later life, as part of his “work style” reforms aimed at revving up economic growth and productivity. The government said on Friday it would also support companies that raise their mandatory retirement age.
Most Japanese companies require full-time employees to retire at 60. The system is a keystone of Japan’s traditional jobs-for-life employment structure where workers are virtually guaranteed employment from graduation to retirement.
More than half are planning to raise the retirement age, a Reuters poll last year showed.


Japan’s ‘Uncle Olympics’ fan dies just short of 2020 Games

Naotoshi Yamada, above, was planning to attend the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. (Reuters/File)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Japan’s ‘Uncle Olympics’ fan dies just short of 2020 Games

  • The man attended all summer games since 1964
  • He often wore a golden hat when he attended the games

TOKYO: A Japanese Olympic mega-fan who attended every summer games since Tokyo in 1964 has died, just over a year before his home city was to host its second Olympics.
Tokyo businessman Naotoshi Yamada, 92, who died on March 9 from heart failure, was a national celebrity in his own right with his repeated, gleeful appearances in Olympic stands.
“Uncle Olympics,” as he came to be known, was an omnipresent fixture for Japanese TV watchers cheering on the Japan team at the “Greatest Show On Earth.”
Often sporting a gold top hat, kimono, and a beaming smile, Yamada also became a darling of the international media.
“After 92 years of his life spent cheering, Naotoshi Yamada, international Olympic cheerleader, was called to eternal rest on March 9, 2019,” said his web site, managed by a firm he founded.
Born in 1926, Yamada built a successful wire rope manufacturing business, and also expanded his portfolio to include the hotel and real estate sectors.
But away from work, his passion was for sport, particularly the Olympics.
He did not miss a summer games since 1964, taking in Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro.
For good measure, he also attended the winter games when it rolled into Nagano in 1998, and told local media of his strong desire to attend the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Yamada saw the first Tokyo Olympics when he was 38.
But his passion was truly ignited during the 1968 Mexico City Games, according to his website.
He donned a kimono and a sombrero hat and loudly cheered for a Mexican 5000-meter runner, mistaking him for a Japanese athlete.
Local spectators embraced the scene and loudly cheered for Japanese athletes in return, leading to an electrifying show of support that went beyond nationality, his website said.
“He saw the awesome power of cheering, and was mesmerised by it ever since,” it said.