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Japan’s government to aim for ‘ageless society’ with planned policy encouraging seniors to stay healthy and keep working

Kyodo

Japan should aim to become an “ageless society,” where people aged 65 or older will not be automatically regarded as seniors but will be encouraged to stay healthy and work, according to a draft of a revised government policy on the elderly released Wednesday.

The draft, marking the first revision in five years of the country’s policy on the elderly, also said people should be allowed to delay the age they start receiving public pensions, to over 70, with the government hoping they will continue to be part of the labor force even after retirement.

Currently the elderly start receiving pensions from 65 in principle, but can choose to start at any time between the ages of 60 and 70. The monthly total increases the more the starting age is delayed.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s related committee broadly approved the draft on Wednesday, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet is set to endorse it this month.

“The general trend of uniformly seeing those aged 65 or over as elderly is losing credibility,” an outline of the new policy said. “The government will review the (current) standardization by age bracket and aim to create an ageless society where people of all generations can be active according to their wishes.”

“Expansion of the right to choose when to receive a public pension has great significance in our changing society,” said Yoshikazu Kenjo, professor of social security at Keio University. “If individuals can choose to delay retirement and get more money on a monthly basis later in life, it could give them a feeling of security about living longer.”

The new policy is being formulated as the nation’s population demographic ages in an unprecedented manner amid a declining birthrate. In 2025, one in every three people in Japan is expected to be 65 or older.

In 2004, another large change to the pension system took place when the government introduced the so-called “macroeconomic slide” policy, which aimed to stabilize government finances. The policy adjusted pension payments based on the average life expectancy and the number of people of working age. The introduction of this 2004 law had already decreased the amount that seniors can collect from pensions.

For a super-aging society, the current social security system must be reformed. The outline also says the government will take steps to facilitate re-employment of the elderly, including offering loans from the government-affiliated Japan Finance Corp. for those who want to start businesses and setting up consultation desks for seniors at Hello Work public job placement offices.

The outline contains a numerical target to increase the rate of employment among those aged 60 to 64 — to 67 percent in 2020, up from 63.6 percent as of 2016.

The government will also promote measures to enhance seniors’ well-being and reduce their need for nursing care, while steps to prevent their isolation in communities have also been included in the outline.

Despite the range of new policies, convincing people to forgo retirement may be a difficult task. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has admitted that only a small number of seniors have chosen to delay retirement so far.