80 year old workers

by Terry Oliver on August 31, 2010

We’ve all been reading for some time now that the developed world’s population is graying rapidly and we oldies make up a larger and larger segment of it. Politicians of every stripe have been worrying away at this problem without coming up with any practical solutions. Until now.

In Japan, where the ageing population is becoming a major concern, a radical new idea is taking hold. The government has passed laws demanding that companies must hire older workers and ignore the retirement age. Not only that but they must make the workplace more adaptable to the needs of older people.

More and more Japanese firms, unable to find young recruits, have started hiring people past the official retirement age. In fact, some are way past it – well into their 70s and 80s. And the old people are keen to give up golf and gardening and go back to the daily grind.

It looks like this pattern of post-retirement jobs is catching on elsewhere as well. In the UK, some of the big-box stores have started employing older people and encouraging them to come out of retirement and back to work – often on a part-time basis and on lower wages too, of course.

So is this what our future is going to look like? Menial jobs on low pay, in place of state pensions, as more and more governments are unable to fund retirement promises made during the affluent times of the Baby Boomers?

Many countries have already raised the retirement age and others have legislation in the pipeline. But they are all treading very gingerly. Because politicians know all about gray power. We older people, unlike the young, like to exercise our vote. And if we don’t like what’s on offer we can soon sling them out and elect others who will treat us the way we demand.

So maybe we won’t all end up like that 89 year old Japanese factory worker I read about after all. But maybe we’ll also be willing to ignore that arbitrary retirement age too and carve out some meaningful work for ourselves which will benefit our communities, our grandchildren and our country.

It depends on us, in the end. You get what you settle for, they say.

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