More employees retiring early

Kyodo News

More than 6,000 workers at 41 companies listed on stock exchanges either left or have decided to leave under early retirement programs between April and November.

Excluding one-time factors a year ago, the figure is 1.6 times more than April-November 2007, indicating the rate of companies’ financial deterioration is outpacing their cost-cutting efforts.

It also suggests that job security is not only a concern for part-timers but for full-time workers as well.

Early retirement programs are a restructuring method in which companies call on employees to leave voluntarily in return for such benefits as lump sums in addition to a normal retirement allowance.

By industry, construction companies and electronics makers accounted for a large proportion of the 41 firms surveyed.

Midsize contractor Okumura Corp., which offered early retirement for its employees age 35 or older, came at the top of the list with 622 workers taking advantage of the program.

Among other builders, Maeda Corp. saw applications from 525 workers and Daiho Co. had 150.

Major condominium developer Daikyo Inc. announced in early November a similar plan for employees aged 40 or older, expecting some 450 workers would apply.

For electronics firms, a large number of early retirees were seen at Pioneer Corp., with 514, and Oki Electric Industry Co., with about 300, mirroring recent realignments within that industry.

The move to encourage early retirement has been spreading to chemical, textile, food and publishing companies.

Jun Inoue, a senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute, said that unlike normal retirement, early retirement “by employees in their most productive years would lead directly to a rise in unemployment.”