Japan's retirees heading back to work as firms face labor shortages

by Mayuko Matsumoto


Some companies are bringing retirees back into the office to pass on know-how gained through decades on the job.

Such workers can offer valuable insights and placement agencies are increasingly accommodating them as Japan faces a looming labor shortage.

Sakae Kajita, 67, retired two years ago after a career with an electronic parts maker. He now serves as an adviser to Advantec Co., a Tokyo-based manufacturer of semiconductor- and vacuum-related components.

In late May, Kajita was at the company’s Yokohama branch to give an briefing on industry trends to Mikio Araki, deputy head of the company’s marketing team.

“In a society where people will need to move many things via the internet, there will be mass demand for sensors and wireless devices,” said Kajita, who formerly managed a plant for his old employer.

Kajita is one of a growing number of retirees who are back at work, putting their knowledge and experiences to use as the nation’s workforce shrinks.

Advantec has been wanting to improve its sales approach. It hired Kajita to accompany Araki on visits customers, during which Araki typically offers the latest information on the industry.

“Customers now ask us to visit them again,” Araki said.

Following his retirement, Kajita registered with Pasona Inc., a staffing service with a network of retired managerial workers. Last year he began accompanying Araki on client visits.

“I feel happy because I am helping others,” Kajita said. He added, he is now studying harder than ever to make sure his advice is solid.

Pasona launched the network in autumn 2013 with the aim of offering a list of consultants available for hire.

It now has some 2,500 registered advisers, many of whom are retired managerial officials from financial institutions and trading houses. They are in their 60s or older.

They advise clients about matters ranging from marketing to overseas business expansion and crafting business strategies.

Senior citizens are also actively involved in designing, writing and other crowd-sourcing work they receive via the internet.

According to Lancers Inc., a Tokyo-based major company in the crowd-sourcing business, people aged 60 and older account for some 2 percent of its registered workers.

An increasing number of companies are workers in their 50s and older to write reports on areas they know well, such as the health of middle-aged and elderly people.

Yasuharu Shimamura, 81, in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, does translations into English and writes reports on Japanese culture in English, utilizing his experience as a former interpreter at the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo. His fees average around ¥17,000 per assignment, which is relatively high.

He said he feels he does some assignments better than young people because he is “more familiar with history.”

He added: “I am happy because I have opportunities to introduce Japanese culture to the rest of the world.”

In March, Jobs Research Center, a research unit of classified ads firm Recruit Jobs Co., asked 6,000 people aged 60 to 74 why they choose to remain in work.

More than 35 percent said they do it to maintain their living standard, stay healthy and earn spending money. In addition, some 30 percent said they want to remain connected with society.

Many companies who place classified ads on Recruit group’s website and its Town Work free magazine use the phrase “senior” to lure such people.

And companies are increasingly trying to make the workplace more accessible for older people, including using larger printed text in documents, said Kuniko Usagawa, head of JRC.