Japan’s seniors find second working life abroad
'Resenting' forced retirement
Tetsuo Kawauchi, chief researcher at Japan Organisation for Employment of the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Job Seekers (JEED), said JICA as it presently works is useful only to a certain sector of retirees.
"People who apply to JICA volunteering are in a relatively good situation as they hold some kind of skills and sizable corporate pension benefits from their former employers, which are often big firms," he said.
"They are seeking a motivation in life rather than income."
But the challenge for JICA, and for Japan at large, he said, is to find a way to make the benefits of working into twilight years available to everybody.
"A large number of retirees in their 60s want to keep working because of economic reasons - worries over costs of caring for their parents, their own medical costs, and declining amounts of pension benefits," he said.
In the meantime, talented seniors like Teruo Higo, former Sony production control expert have found a use for their skills - and a way to keep active and interested.
Higo quit Sony at 58 to set up his own company advising small businesses how to improve productivity because he resented the idea of being forced to retire.
Over the following decade he twice went with JICA to Argentina - in 2002 and 2009, each time completing a two-year term.
"For retirees, there is no better place than this volunteer scheme in terms of working conditions and compensation," 72-year-old Higo said.
But he added that with the scheme not open to those older than 69, more options are needed. "There are literally no jobs for people in their 70s and 80s," he said.
In Latin America, volunteers receive a monthly pay packet of US$1,000 (S$1,259) for living costs in addition to dwelling expenses and flight tickets.
"But for retirees, what's more important than money is to have a job with some responsibility, that could also prevent dementia and save elderly people's medical costs," said Higo.