Ex-meter reader forms company that offers jobs and purpose to retirees

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

Kenji Ueda founded a human resources company for retirees 13 years ago, hoping not just to help them work again but also find something to live for.

“Elderly people with a great deal of experience and knowledge are the most valuable treasure (of society),” Ueda, chairman of Koreisha Co., said in a recent interview.

“I would like to give as many (elderly) people as possible the opportunity to work and a reason to live,” Ueda, 75, said.

Tokyo-based Koreisha recruits people aged between 60 and 75 willing to work up to three days a week — the limit for receiving pension benefits.

The seniors can choose from about 60 different occupations, ranging from inspecting gas equipment to cooking at restaurants, driving and cleaning. They can also decide their own working hours.

As of September, Koreisha had 850 workers registered, with the oldest an 81-year-old man, according to company officials.

Koreisha also adopts a work-sharing scheme allowing two or more workers to share a position for one person.

Companies taking on Koreisha workers can avoid the time and effort of training new recruits who lack experience.

“I believe a great manager should take good care of his or her employees,” Ueda said. “I wanted to build a company that benefits its workers.”

Ueda, who hails from Yawatahama, Ehime Prefecture, had to support his family when he was in junior high school and his father lost his job. He sold ice cream and delivered newspapers to help make ends meet.

When he was 18, Ueda joined Tokyo Gas Co. after graduating from high school. He said he learned much from senior colleagues and managers at client companies and developed a philosophy of never dismissing an employee even in hard times.

At Tokyo Gas, Ueda started as a meter reader but worked hard to become an executive before retirement. He won acclaim for reconstructing a Tokyo Gas subsidiary and another affiliated firm.

Ueda established Koreisha in 2000 as it became apparent that society was aging at a rapid pace. He believed that allowing elderly people to continue working would help curb social welfare costs and maintain a healthy society.

People 65 or older accounted for a record-high 25 percent of the total population as of mid-September, according to a recent government survey.

In 2012, Koreisha launched a business to support working mothers to help create a society in which it is easier for women to keep working after giving birth.

Among its services, the company sends workers to clients to help make meals or drop off and pick up their children. It has also begun conducting surveys on elderly consumers to help companies market useful products to people in that age group.