In an aged society, a big part of its financial resources has to be spent on socially supporting the elderly. Hence, I believe social participation among the elderly, such as working and volunteer activities, is an important and beneficial issue for our society.
When Japanese people talk about “the elderly,” we usually mean “people aged 65 and over.” In the meantime, a number of corporations set a mandatory retirement for their employees at age 60, and those retirees are often considered “the elderly.”
In the previous report, I wrote about the elderly population in Japan. I mostly talked about those aged 65 and over, but readers from other countries requested additional information on people aged 55 (or 60) to 64, or Japanese “seniors”. I agree on the importance of this age group and would like to give an overview.
Working Status of Seniors
A mandatory retirement was normally set at age 55 in Japan between 1920s and 1980s. The life after a mandatory retirement was considered as being “the elderly.” A mandatory retirement age started rising in 1980s. Promotion for early retirement, which was often discussed in European countries, did not take place in Japan.
As of the beginning of the 21st century, employment rates for those aged 55 to 59 are about 94% for males and about 59% for females. Rates for those aged 60 to 64 are about 72% and 39.5% for males and females, respectively. For people aged 65 and over, employment rates are about 33% for males and about 14% for females.
It is often said that employment rates of the elderly are higher in Japan than in other countries. Although rates are quite high for those aged 60 to 64, it is not so for those aged 65 and over. The high employment rates of the Japanese elderly may be partly pushed by the society, for East Asian countries have strong work ethics. In Japan, where a mandatory retirement age is normally set at age 60, many corporations keep or rehire their employees after a mandatory retirement, resulting in higher employment rates among seniors.
It is estimated that about 10 million out of 30 million Japanese people aged 60 and over are working at the beginning of the 21st century. Excluding the number of people who need care, about 15 million seniors are not working but having a variety of life styles. While the working-age (15-64) population has been declining in Japan, the number of the elderly (both aged 60+ and 65+) is increasing rapidly. Baby-boomers will be in their 60s by 2010, and our society needs preparations for the population aging including those baby-boomers. Hence, working and social activities among the current seniors are of great interest.