The Japanese approach to an ageing workforce

Jul 04 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

An interesting piece over on the Wall Street Journal's looks at the Japanese approach to its ageing workforce:

Unlike the U.S., Japan is reluctant to rely on large-scale immigration to bolster the work force. Instead, it is trying another strategy: enticing the elderly to work longer before receiving retirement benefits, effectively dealing with old age by making it start later.

What leaps out from the piece is that Japanese firms have clearly grasped the key role older workers play in maintaining 'institutional knowledge' - something that a number of recent reports suggest is still evading employers in the US or Europe.

To maintain the level of skill in its factories, Kobe Steel Ltd. started last year to offer yearly contracts to a select few employees over 60. So far the company has chosen to keep mainly technicians because it wants to retain their skills, and has rehired 30.

....Precision-instruments maker Mitutoyo Corp. is eager to hang on to its star engineer, Toshio Kimura, 69, at its Tsukuba technology center, north of Tokyo. Some of the company's key products are frames of precise measurement with extremely smooth surfaces, which are needed in certain types of manufacturing. The feisty Mr. Kimura makes sure this is done properly. | Fast-Aging Japan Keeps Its Elders on the Job Longer