Few employers are looking for senior citizen employees, but senior citizens, increasingly, are looking for jobs, says Shukan Gendai (Dec 10). Retirement is not what it used to be. Pension funds are pinched ever more tightly as society grays, and the eligibility age, now 60, is certain to rise in the near future to 65 or even 70. With the standard retirement age at most companies likely to remain unchanged at 60, post-retirement employment is seen by many as a necessity.
Shukan Gendai’s writer visits a Hello Work agency in Tokyo to see what’s available. At a computer terminal, he inputs his age – 65; desired terms – full-time; desired job location – Tokyo. He draws a grand total of 37 possibilities, most of which require specific qualifications (nurse, auto mechanic, electrical engineer).
He changes tack and inputs “part time.” Well, that’s a different story – 4,702 possibilities pop up. But his initial optimism soon fades. What are the choices? Office building night cleaner, 840 yen an hour; apartment building superintendent-janitor, 1,000 yen an hour. Not exactly what he’d had in mind, but he soon learns that he’d better lower his sights, and when he notices an opening for bicycle parking lot manager, he thinks, “This is something I can do.” The trouble is, he writes ruefully, “If you’re thinking that, chances are a lot of other people are thinking the same.”
Supplementing the government-run Hello Work outlets are several private agencies, some of which feature “senior corners.” One such is the Tokyo Work Center, operated by the Tokyo Work Foundation. In 2008, its senior corner assisted 6,123 job-seekers aged 60 or over; in 2010, the number was 8,173. And yet only 20% of them, on average, find jobs.
“A lot of the people who come to us have insufficient savings. If they don’t work, they can’t live,” Shukan Gendai hears from Tokyo Work Center official Akiyuki Takada. “Many of them have their backs against the wall.”
But companies that can afford to hire at all in a struggling economy have a decided bias in favor of youth. “Elderly applicants are eager to put their skills and experience to work,” says Takada. “Most of them are looking for office work, or managerial positions. There isn’t much of that kind of thing, though, and what there is, when we introduce a veteran, many of them say right away, ‘Send us a young person.’”
With many older people staying healthy longer and social safety nets coming under increasing strain, somehow this country is going to have to evolve a system for putting its able-bodied elderly to work. Shukan Gendai sees no sign of it happening any time soon.© Japan Today