Japan's seniors work till they drop

In the USA and Canada there's a popular phrase - "Let's shop till we drop!" In Japan, a lot of aging people have transformed this phrase into - "Let's work till we drop."

Myinchew.com, a Japanese online publication profiles an older generation that finds so much meaning in work, they may work upwards of 12 hours a day, seven days a week. While European governments struggle to convince populations to delay retirement, Japan has found no such resistance.

A shrinking number of taxpayers in Japan end up supporting a growing elderly population. Older people are encouraged to work longer. A quarter of the Japanese are over 65. Low immigration means the government must encourage older people to stay in the workforce.

Older Japanese see their work as a source of pride. Koji Sato, a Tokyo tea shop owner, told Myinchew.com: "If I stopped work, I would feel old." The 75-years-old works 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Observers say the older Japanese attitude of hard work is derived from the austerity of its shell-shocked post-war years, transformed into a booming economy by a vitalized work force. Money is secondary compared to doing something useful for society. Large companies have faith in older workers and entrust them to handle things.

Seniors realize that the pension system has become a burden on younger generations due to the decline in childbirths, so they want to work longer. Austerity packages have led to outcries in Europe compared to Japan, where older people carry on without complaint.

Seichiro Fukui, who has worked for 41 years, said he intends to "work till he drops." Fukui, like many Japanese, continue to work because they see no meaning in retirement.

Because of this hard work attitude, the number of Assisted Living and Continuing Care residents in Japan is a fraction of those in North America.