Concerns over aging tied to pensions, not wrinkles

The Associated Press

A majority of Japanese worry about getting old, mostly because of the shaky state of the national pension and health care systems, according to a government poll.

Some 80.6 percent of respondents to the Cabinet Office survey, conducted between Feb. 27 and March 13 and released this week, voiced concern about reaching retirement age.

More than three-quarters of those who expressed worries cited Japan’s pension, health care and social security systems, which are being strained to the point of breaking because of the country’s rapidly graying population.

Others blamed rising taxes and pension premiums, with many viewing the rising rates as inevitable, according to the survey.

Japan has one of the world’s fastest aging populations. Rising life expectancy and a plunging birthrate have raised concerns that the nation will likely struggle to support its senior citizens in the coming decades.

By 2050, one in three Japanese is expected to be over 65, up from about one in five of the country’s current population, which stands at some 127.52 million.

Earlier this month, the government passed a law aimed at saving the national pension system, which faces a burgeoning number of retirees set to receive benefits even as the number of working-age people contributing to the scheme dwindles.

The legislation — which cuts benefits that citizens receive after retirement, while gradually hiking pension premiums — comes after a scandal in which about 100 lawmakers admitted missing obligatory payments to the pension system.

In the poll, more than 40 percent of respondents said they favor legal changes that would allow the official retirement age to be raised from 60.