Society | Jan 19

Surviving old age is getting harder in Japan

Seniors living in poverty or working to supplement their income are on the rise as Japan’s public pension system cracks under a super aging society.

In Japan, seniors are at the top of the social hierarchy. It’s a tradition that has led to a national holiday dedicated to the elderly to honor their contributions to society. But at the same time, seniors are also preparing to work “forever,” re-entering the workforce, and taking up low paid jobs in order to survive.

Japan is aging faster than any other country in the world. The national pension system is under immense pressure to sustain an growing number of elderly while the number of people contributing to the system dwindles. As of 2020, the number of Japanese over 65 reached a record high of 36 million, or 29 percent of the total population of 125 million. This figure is twice as high as it was 25 years ago, and it’s expected to increase to 35 percent by 2040, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

In a related development, in 2021 the number of people over 75 in need of “final stage” medical care increased by 720,000 to 20 million in total.

Japan’s poverty line survey conducted in 2019 determined that a minimum annual income of approximately $10,000 is needed to purchase daily essentials. However, seniors over 65 receive an annual basic pension of roughly $6,000 or $460 each month, which is not enough to cover daily expenses.

Women are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty in old age compared to their male counterparts. Japan boasts one of the highest life expectancies in the world, with women at 87 years and men at 81. The poverty rate for elderly women is expected to increase to 25 percent from 22 percent, but this figure jumps to 50 percent for divorced and unmarried women. In contrast, only 10 percent of men are predicted to fall into poverty. ...continue reading


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