Japan puts its seniors to work

Japan puts its seniors to work Japan puts its seniors to work

September 6, 20162 min read
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In a global climate of concern around ageing populations, Japanese employers are discovering that silver is a valuable resource that can be spun into business gold. Older workers offer knowledge, how-to, and experience unmatched by younger cohorts.


In a recent essay on Japan's older workforce, the Financial Times highlights the accomplishments of Sayaka Honjo, who, at 76, is cosmetic company Pola's top sales representative, posting monthly sales of ¥150m, or $1.4 million U.S. dollars. Honjo is not an outlier; among Pola's 50,000 sales representatives are 5,500 people in their 70s, 2,500 in their 80s, and 250 in their 90s. Pola benefits from their older salespeople's capacity to form long-lasting community connections. Says 83-year-old saleswoman Miyoko Sugiyama, "I won't retire as long as my clients want me."


Metal fabricator Isoda regards older workers in a similar, positive light. A decade ago, the Tokyo company discarded rules mandating retirement at age 65. Employees like Kenji Sato, who is 71, are able to put their years of experience to good use in training new generations of workers and maintaining superior quality. Says Seto, an instructor for colleagues in their 20s and 30s, "I want to pass on to them every technique I've mastered."


The International Federation on Ageing comprises government and non-government members in 62 countries, including Japan, and represents some 50 million older people. The IFA's Expertfile is home to a number of experts in the fields of ageing, employment of older adults, and retirement. Our experts are available to speak to media regarding employment trends, worker longevity, and international attitudes regarding older workers and retirees.


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  • Dr. Jane Barratt
    Dr. Jane Barratt Secretary General

    As Secretary General of the IFA Dr Barratt is an internationaly respected speaker on age related issues across the globe.

  • Prof. Sarah Harper
    Prof. Sarah Harper Director and Professor of Gerontology

    Sarah trained as an ethnographer and her early research focused on migration and the social implications of demographic change

  • Dr. Anthea Tinker
    Dr. Anthea Tinker Professor of Social Gerontology

    Anthea Tinker's main areas of research interest are social policy and research ethics, specialising since 1974 in Gerontology.

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