The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about a legal revision for companies to try to ensure employment up until age 70.
Question: Can people work until they're 70 if they want to?
Answer: The revised Act on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons, which mandates that companies try to ensure employment for staff until they are 70, was enacted in April. Companies had previously been required to employ staff who opt to keep working until they turn 65. The new legal revision aims to let healthy senior citizens work and support Japan's social security system, and comes out of concerns the number of workers in Japan will fall due to its declining birthrate.
Q: Can you work under the same conditions even when you get older?
A: Many companies have adopted a system where they have employees retire once at the mandatory retirement age of 60, and subsequently rehire them by signing a new fixed-term employment contract. This has led to cases where people are subject to lower salaries and worse treatment even though their working conditions and the job they do are the same as before.
Q: So older individuals don't get the same treatment young people do?
A: The Japanese government has presented the option for companies to continuously sign outsourcing contracts with older people. In that case, they would work as sole proprietors. While this has merit for the company, such as a lower burden from social insurance premiums, elderly individuals would no longer be protected under the Labor Standards Act.
Q: What happens when they are injured at work?
A: Because elderly workers are not covered by industrial accident compensation insurance, they risk having to pay for treatment costs on their own. Following the legal revision, older adults who are newly sole proprietors have been able to apply for industrial accident compensation insurance as exceptional cases. But, applicants must cover necessary expenses alone.
Q: There seem to be many challenges, don't there?
A: Yes. But an increasing number of companies are also positive about employing older individuals. Major air conditioning manufacturer Daikin Industries Ltd. expanded its reemployment system in April so that staff can choose to keep working until 70. Attention now rests on whether employment for older people can be secured not just at major firms, but also at small- and mid-sized companies.
(Japanese original by Natsuko Ishida, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)