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Working until you're 70? Is it desirable? For some, sure...

19 Comments

“Live to 100, work to 70.” That seems to be where we’re heading. Is it sustainable? asks Spa! (Sept 21-28). The first half of the equation may be. The second is hitting snags. 

 Effective this past April, Japan’s official retirement age is 70, up from 65. New laws passed then require employers to retain workers to age 70. It’s interesting, Spa! notes, that around the same time Honda, the automaker, invited employees in their 40s and 50s to take early retirement – and got swamped with 2000 applicants. Clearly two currents are flowing here – in opposite directions.

It’s a whole new world out there. Can aging workers keep pace with new values demanding new attitudes, new technologies requiring new skills, at a time of life when physical and sometimes mental energy is apt to decline? Some can, certainly; some welcome the challenge and grow youthful meeting it. Not everyone.

“Tetsuyuki Ikehashi” (a pseudonym), now 54, joined his company, a precision instrument maker, straight out of college. The economic bubble was swelling then. One of a crowd of new hirees, he soon got lost in it; he did his job without distinguishing himself, and the years passed. 

Ten years ago he was transferred to a subsidiary and promoted to section head. Pleased at first, he soon had second thoughts. Was he cut out for executive status, however junior? Among the difficulties were underlings older than himself, some of whom were resentful, and foreign staff, with attendant language and cultural barriers that had to be smoothed over.

He wished he’d stayed where he was. There was another issue, characteristic of changing times. Women were rising – some, he says, owing not to ability but to the company’s ambition to look progressive. He found himself working under a woman whose competence was questionable. He feels under pressure to quietly tidy up the messes she makes.

Then came teleworking, with its demand for technical skills that don’t come easily to him. One thing and another, in short. Still relatively young, he looks ahead to 16 more years of this and asks himself, “Can I hold out until retirement?”

“Takashi Asano,” 51, graduated and took a job with a small company, a drink maker. It suited him perfectly. He was promoted, and promoted again. “At this rate I’ll be an executive before long,” he thought. Others noticed him too. Ten years ago he was headhunted by a listed company. He took the plunge.

Mistake. The intensely competitive ambience was not for him. The power harassment was intolerable. There was no going back to his former employer and no staying with his current one. He checked out Hello Work, the government employment agency, and found an opening with an electronics company. The trouble was, he knew nothing about electronics.

And the company is “black,” which is to say ruthlessly exploitative. Constant pressure and 100 hours a month of overtime finally laid him low – he collapsed from a brain hemorrhage.

He recovered, is back at work, and allowed to work shorter hours. But he too wonders if he can hold out for the 19 years still standing between him and retirement.

How much can the economy reasonably demand of its workforce? That’s the question Spa! is asking, and the evidence, still far from conclusive, is pouring in thick and fast, in the shape of small individual stories like these.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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I plan on doing my own thing that I want to be doing, when I want to be doing it and without a boss breathing down my neck to keep myself a bit busy so then I won't mind working until 70 or whatever. I will be officially 'retiring' as a salary man in my 50s though.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Working until you're 70? Is it desirable?

No. Thank you for the question.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Working until you're 70? Is it desirable?

No. necessary? maybe. but in a few years when more people will be able to WFH why not?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Working until 70? LOL I'm planning to retire once I'm 40 (maybe 45 if I start to feel bored). There is more in life than going to work.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

I think most people who had the choice would retire as early as possible. Money tends to be the only reason to continue working...if you don't have enough you can't retire

1 ( +4 / -3 )

 I will be officially 'retiring' as a salary man in my 50s though.

I owe. I owe. It's off the work I go.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I Love what I do and do not intend to retire even past 70 why? I pursued my passion in Life after realizing I could not deal with working at a company, its not for everybody. My advice is find your passion and pursue it. You might not make as much money as you did especially when your working for yourself especially when you start. When you do what you Love its easy to work hard and it pays off not in money but in happiness.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

When I reach 70 I will tell you how my last 20 years of retirement have been.

Got money...why work?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@ 藤原

Excellent post. Thank you

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Working as a wage slave? no thanks.

Working, doing what I love? they can pry my cold dead fingers from my tools.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I plan to stay till I'm 70. I love my work, it is rewarding and technically fascinating, it isn't taxing my body to do it and really if I quit I would be bored to tears. I have seen others where I work stay well into their 70s and it isn't due to poverty. We are swimming in advanced degrees including yours truly. It is just the kind of work that keeps one intellectually challenged and is rewarding, so why quit?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I had to quit working in my 50s due to health issues, but it is not what I wanted. While I made plans for retirement, and am comfortable in retirement, I wanted to work longer, and tried to. Sometimes the body does not cooperate.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

On the question of following one's passion, I think there has to be a balance. I have known a few people who followed their passion, only to live in poverty. I found something that was intellectually challenging, as well as adequately remunerative; in other words, a balance.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I see it more as having the option to work until 70. With my job, I can cut my schedule to 4 days a week or 3,2, or 1 day. I saw what forced retirement did to my father in law. He lost his purpose and before long his clarity of thought suffered greatly. If you can pick your hours, work is quite fine.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It is interesting to consider the age of farmers in Japan. They work well beyond 70. Maybe retired salarymen could move to the countryside and take up farming if they want to continue working.

The average age of farmers is 66.8 years and more than 80% of farmers in Japan are over 60 years old (MAFF, 2019[3]).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For some it may be desirable.

For others it is not and they do not have to.

For still others, they have no choice.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm just hoping to make it to 70. My dad is 73 and still working part time. He likes to gamble and has a gorlfriend so he needs the extra money.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

'Druther work till I drop, whatever age that turns out to be. Can't stand for idleness; rots the brain and body.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Very cruel when we live to work not work to live...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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