The Yomiuri ShimbunLooking ahead to an era of 100-year life, it is essential to consider from various angles how to expand the scope of activities pursued by elderly people.
The government plans to make it mandatory for companies to work toward ensuring opportunities for their employees to work until the age of 70 if the employees so desire. It aims to submit related bills to a plenary session of the Diet next year.
The nation’s working-age population has been declining due to the rapid effects of the declining birth rate and aging population. The working-age population, currently standing at about 75 million, is estimated to drop below 60 million by 2040. Unless something is done, it will be difficult to maintain the vigor of society.
It is desirable that elderly people with the motivation to work will be able to work as long as they can.
The number of healthy senior citizens has been increasing. Data shows that, in terms of physical strength, today’s elderly people are 10 years “younger” than those of 20 years ago.
The employment rate for people aged 65 to 69 stands at 47 percent, even though 65 percent of people in this age bracket say they “want to work remuneratively.” Thus there are many people who are not given opportunities to work despite their willingness to do so.
It is essential to make arrangements for the elderly to work. If the number of people who earn a paycheck rises, a stimulating effect on consumption can be expected.
There are not a few tasks to be tackled. One is how to treat the elderly. When people are rehired after retirement, their wages decline in many cases. The levels of income they actually earn are far less than they desire.
Pension system reform vital
If the elderly are treated generously amid limited personnel budgets, it will have ill effects on the working-age generation. There could be small and medium-sized companies that cannot afford to continue employing elderly workers due to their lack of financial resources.
In its planned policy, the government lists such examples as business start-ups and social contribution activities, including those with nonprofit organizations, as options for work by the elderly. But only a limited number of elderly people have the know-how for business start-ups or a network of connections with NPOs. It is indispensable for companies to back up the elderly’s willingness to tackle new jobs.
An advisory council of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will launch concrete studies to design an employment system for people up to the age of 70. The panel is called on to hold meticulous discussions by taking into consideration the workability of planned policy options.
When a society in which people work until the age of 70 is in place, a reexamination of the public pension system will be called for.
The age at which to start receiving pension benefits is currently set at 65 in principle, and the amount of benefits received increases if the starting age is delayed until 66 or later. A plan has emerged to make it possible for recipients to put off benefits even further, beyond 70, in return for additional pension benefits. This could be worth studying.
As for the rule under which pension benefits are decreased for the elderly who earn certain amounts of income, some people call for abolishing it, arguing that it “discourages them from working.” But if the system is abolished, it will become necessary to prepare fiscal resources for the additional pension benefits to be paid.
It is imperative to hold discussions about the way the pension system should be to sustain a society of long and active lives.