April 20, 2021

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Editorial: Japan’s extension of the retirement age is of reference significance

Japan Street

Japan launched the newly passed "Employment Stability Law for the Elderly" on April 1, officially extending the legal retirement age of employees to 70 years old. (AFP)

Japan launched the newly passed "Employment Stability Law for the Elderly" on April 1, officially extending the legal retirement age of employees to 70 years old.

Japan launched the newly passed “Employment Stability Law for the Elderly” on April 1, officially extending the legal retirement age of employees to 70 years old. The new law was amended by Congress in March last year, expressly requiring companies to abolish the existing retirement system from 60 to 65 years old. In addition, the new law also requires companies to arrange advanced studies for retired employees so that they can acquire new knowledge and strive for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. The government also encourages companies to allow older employees to engage in charity services that contribute to society. Japan’s approach is of reference significance to developed societies that are generally facing an aging population.

According to the United Nations’ World Population Outlook, Japan is already the country with the fastest population aging trend in the world. According to official Japanese data, the proportion of the population over 65 years old increased to 28.4% in 2019 and is expected to increase to 30% in 2025 and 35.3% in 2040. The aging population caused by the continuing sluggish birth rate has made the Japanese job market in short supply, and the number of jobs is 1.6 times that of job seekers. Therefore, it has become a common phenomenon for workers over 65 to continue to work, accounting for 12.2% of the total employed population in 2017, and the employment rate of men aged 65 to 69 is as high as 52.9%.

The amendment to extend the retirement age therefore only reflects existing reality. Moreover, Japan’s old-age pension savings are expected to be exhausted in 2050, and many elderly people’s retirement life is insecure. Extending the retirement age will help them continue to maintain an income. With the implementation of the new law, the Japanese government also intends to delay the pension payment period to 70 years old. The Japanese people are also aware of the seriousness of the problem. Official polls show that among people over 60, up to 65% want to work until they are 70 years old. Most of them are worried about the burden of life, hoping to work and support themselves in their later years.

Japan is the world’s best at using robots to make up for the shortage of labor. It must also amend the law to extend the retirement age. The situation in other economies in the world can be imagined. In addition to encouraging young couples to give birth, the Japanese government has also relaxed the restrictions on the introduction of foreign labor. The “Immigration Administration and Refugee Recognition Law” that took effect in 2019 approved the nursing industry, catering industry, construction industry, agriculture, building cleaning industry, and machinery manufacturing. Employ foreign workers in industries, electronics, shipbuilding, automobile maintenance, aviation, fisheries, etc. The migrant population increased from 1.1 million at the end of 2016 to 2.86 million at the end of 2020, with an average annual increase of more than 300,000.

Increasingly advanced modern medicine continues to extend the average life expectancy and also impacts the previous employment system and concepts. The life planning of studying in the teenage years, employment in the young and middle-aged, and retirement in the old age must now be adjusted. Because of the increase in the average healthy life span, the definition of old age will inevitably change. The geriatrics community recommends that people between 60 and 74 years old should be called young people, and people over 75 years old should be called old people. The young and middle-aged people are mainly struggling to support their families and build a career. Young and old people continue to work with different motives and goals.

In addition to economic reasons, there are other benefits of extending the retirement age. For many people, work is not only a source of income, but also a core part of the definition of self-identity. Many people are suddenly at a loss after retirement, rapidly aging and suffering from various physical and mental diseases. The main reason is that life has lost the meaning and direction of existence. Continuing to work is not only self-reliant, but also allows the elderly to gain the dignity and self-confidence of life and feel that they can still make a contribution. I am afraid that this psychologically positive effect is still seriously underestimated.

Starting from July 1 next year, Singapore will raise the statutory retirement age to 63 and the re-employment age to 68; the public service as the largest local employer will be implemented in advance on July 1 this year. The average life expectancy in Singapore is 84.9 years. If you retire at 68, you will have more than 16 years of life. Not everyone has enough wisdom and conditions to plan their life after retirement. The Japanese government amended the law to extend the retirement age to 70 years old, so it is worthy of reference. As long as health permits and individuals have the will, society should create conditions for the elderly to continue to work, not only contribute to the economy, but also find a solid foothold for their physical and mental health and balance.

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