In 2019 we have five and a half years more of life expectancy than at the beginning of the millennium. According to the WHO the average age that a child born in 2016 can aspire to reach is 72 years old. The medical advances, the eradication of pandemic diseases and a better awareness of life-shortening habits are the main causes for this limit to expand.

What represents good news when it comes to our personal lives becomes a problem as regards work lifespan. Now, older people are healthier than before, but they can’t work. Age discrimination and the inadequacy of organisational and public structures for older workers are problems which will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Statistics are discouraging for those who are over 50 years old and have no job. In Spain, according to a survey carried out by the Adecco Foundation, unemployed people who have been without a job for over a year represent 55.09% of that country’s population, and this puts them in a particularly vulnerable position. While these figures rise, strategies become necessary mitigate the effects of senior unemployment.

Japan: An aging country, a case study

Japan leads the ranking of life expectancy, with an average of 85.3 years, surpassed only by Monaco with 89.4 years. In addition to this, we have to take into account the decrease in birth rate, which reaches 1.43, which is insufficient to replace the workforce and maintain the standard of living they have.

The demographic data show a reality in itself, but to this we have to add the challenges that the labour market faces worldwide as a consequence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which demands adaptation from the existing positions and the elimination of some others. Among the initiatives that must be embraced, we find digital transformation, inclusiveness (incorporating women and foreigners to the workforce) and older talent reskilling.

Since 2012, the government of Japan has adopted a series of measures to ensure that the population over 60 can keep their jobs: by making companies eliminate their retirement systems, increasing the retirement age and rehiring people who have already retired.

Considering the trend to be left without workforce, it’s necessary to implement other strategies, and the correct use of the experience and abilities of this demographic group will be increasingly better valued to maintain the formidable Japanese economic system.

In order to achieve an improvement in the conditions to hire elderly people, they will have to become more flexible and make adjustments such as:

  • Shorten the work day
  • Adapt work spaces to accommodate older workers
  • Incorporate robotics and automation to basic processes
  • Vocational guidance
  • Relocate older talent in mentoring and training roles for the newer generations
  • Constant training.

While Japan is entering this new stage and leading the changes in the way we understand work, we will have to make sure to implement, in a timely manner, strategies that will serve both the organisation’s vision, and the reorganisation of society and its new challenges.