As Asian Societies Age, ‘Retirement’ Just Means More Work – The New York Times


To cope with what demographers call “super aging societies,” policymakers in East Asia initially focused on trying to spur births and tinkering with immigration laws to shore up work forces. Such measures have done little to alter the aging trend line, as fertility rates have plunged and many countries have resisted large-scale immigration plans.

That has left employers desperate for workers. In Japan, for example, surveys show that as many as half of companies report shortages of full-time workers. Older workers have stepped in to fill the gaps. “We have so much unused and untapped working capacity,” said Naohiro Ogawa, a visiting fellow at the Asian Development Bank Institute.

Koureisha is a temporary agency in Tokyo where job listings specify that applicants must be at least 60 years old. Fumio Murazeki, the president, said he believed employers were growing more receptive to hiring older workers. “People who are over 65, or even up until 75, they are very active and healthy,” he said.

Rental car agencies and building concierge services are eager to hire older workers, said Mr. Murazeki. One popular job for older contract workers is to sit in the front passenger seat of service vehicles while electricians or gas repairmen assist clients on site. The contract worker can move the vehicle when necessary, helping companies avoid parking tickets or traffic fines, Mr. Murazeki said.

At Tokyu Community, a property management company for apartment complexes in Tokyo, almost half the staff is 65 or older, said Hiroyuki Ikeda, head of human resources. With a salary of just 2,300,000 yen a year — less than $17,146 — the jobs do not appeal to younger workers, while older people are willing to accept the low pay to supplement their pension income.

The Japanese government now provides subsidies to small- and medium-sized companies that install accommodations for older workers, like additional railings on staircases or extra rest areas for workers.


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