Quantcast
Latest Stories

Japan’s seniors find second working life abroad

By

Elderly citizens sit on benches at a temple in downtown Tokyo. AFP FILE PHOTO

TOKYO—After a life of dedication to a corporate cause that in Japan means long hours and few holidays, retirement might be seen as a well deserved rest. But for some, it is a chance to launch a new career.

With opportunities at home few and far between, a scheme offering Japan’s seniors the chance to work abroad is increasingly being seen as a good way to keep active during a retirement that can easily last 20 years.

As Toshio Hirouchi approached 60, he began to wonder what life would hold for him when he left IT services giant Fujitsu, where he had been working for more than three decades.

He had joined the company in 1973, programming the large-size all-purpose computers that made up the bulk of the industry at the time.

“But with the emergence of personal computers, the company wanted younger engineers for PC development. Our generation was forced out from development to administrative branches,” he said.

“That change helped me to think about doing something completely new” after retirement, the 66-year-old told AFP.

The answer came in the government-run Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a scheme that recruits volunteers between the ages of 40 and 69 to work abroad.

The programme sees up to 470 people sent to more than 60 different countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East every year, where they are tasked with “accelerating cross-border friendship and understanding”, according to the organisation’s website.

They are also there to “contribute to the economic and social development” of recipient countries, doing work required by their host communities.

In Hirouchi’s case, this meant editing a history book for newly-arrived Japanese immigrants to Paraguay.

So at the age of 58, he hit the books, brushing up his rusty English and learning Spanish from scratch.

Interviewing, writing and negotiating with a printing company were all new to him, but Hirouchi relished the challenge.

“I discovered that volunteer work is a world where your will and enthusiasm can carve out a new dimension,” he said.

From ‘boom’ to gloom

Hirouchi is one of Japan’s post-war baby boom generation that helped engineer the economic miracle of the 1960s and 1970s, catapulting the country into the top ranks of world economies.

As Japan developed, the birth rate fell and now stands well below replacement level.

Currently those aged 65 or over account for more than 23 percent of Japan’s 127 million people—one of the highest proportions of elderly in the world.

That figure is expected to rise to 40 percent by 2060, as Japan’s population shrinks, further stressing public finances already hard pressed by two decades of economic stagnation.

And by 2060, the average man will live to be 84; the average woman to nearly 91, government estimates suggest.

More—and longer living—retirees inevitably means more spending on social security at a time when Japan’s public debt stands at around twice GDP.

A government report last month said Japan needed to harness the skills of its greying workers, warning the nation’s economic prospects depend on making them productive.

Japan “needs to realise a society where ageing people can participate in the labour market or in social activities” to boost economic growth, the cabinet office said in a white paper.

The paper said many older people were keen to remain economically active.

But it added: “That strong desire among ageing people is not resulting in actual job opportunities”.

‘Resenting’ forced retirement

Tetsuo Kawauchi, chief researcher at Japan Organisation for Employment of the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Job Seekers (JEED), said JICA as it presently works is useful only to a certain sector of retirees.

“People who apply to JICA volunteering are in a relatively good situation as they hold some kind of skills and sizable corporate pension benefits from their former employers, which are often big firms,” he said.

“They are seeking a motivation in life rather than income.”

But the challenge for JICA, and for Japan at large, he said, is to find a way to make the benefits of working into twilight years available to everybody.

“A large number of retirees in their 60s want to keep working because of economic reasons—worries over costs of caring for their parents, their own medical costs, and declining amounts of pension benefits,” he said.

In the meantime, talented seniors like Teruo Higo, former Sony production control expert have found a use for their skills—and a way to keep active and interested.

Higo quit Sony at 58 to set up his own company advising small businesses how to improve productivity because he resented the idea of being forced to retire.

Over the following decade he twice went with JICA to Argentina—in 2002 and 2009, each time completing a two-year term.

“For retirees, there is no better place than this volunteer scheme in terms of working conditions and compensation,” 72-year-old Higo said.

But he added that with the scheme not open to those older than 69, more options are needed. “There are literally no jobs for people in their 70s and 80s,” he said.

In Latin America, volunteers receive a monthly pay packet of $1,000 for living costs in addition to dwelling expenses and flight tickets.

“But for retirees, what’s more important than money is to have a job with some responsibility, that could also prevent dementia and save elderly people’s medical costs,” said Higo.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Fujitsu , grandparents , Japan , Japan International Cooperation Agency , JICA , retirement , Senior Citizens , Toshio Hirouchi

  • Branch_Warren

    totally different culture from ours. Here, at 18 people already are retired (tambay).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PIPW4VNDZOUG6LBBRA25VRA7LU danny

    I wonder why nobody is complaining about the lowering or shrinkage of population of Japan and other developed countries?  When it comes to population boom many “experts” will bombard us with their statements that population growth is not good. Population decrease is the real bad thing, not population growth.

    • discerningmind

      One of the problems with those who oppose RH bill such as yourself is that you people are stuck in a case by case analysis to support arguments but fail to see the big picture. There are plenty of children in your country living in streets or collecting items from dump sites, kids who may never receive proper education and thus later in life would more likely resort to prostitution or committing crimes. I am for healthy responsible population growth but not overpopulation.

  • rezli

    Danny..!!! you should look every street of metro manila, the street childrens where they live..? you’re lucky simply because, you’re not one of them…



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. World bids Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Adios’
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  8. Garcia Marquez left unpublished manuscript
  9. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  10. Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  5. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  6. This is not just a farm
  7. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer

News

  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • N. Korea finally offers condolences over ferry tragedy
  • 16 CADPI sugar refinery workers now out of danger after toxic shower in Batangas
  • PNP denies Purisima’s involvement in questionable deal with courier firm
  • Pro-Russian insurgents hold journalist hostage
  • Sports

  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Brazil passes trailblazing Internet privacy law
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK
  • Cha cha train to follow Obama visit?
    Marketplace