Published : 2020-09-01

Japan’s Approach to Retirement Reform: An International Perspective

Masa Higo


Over the past few decades, most countries around the world have been pressured to reform their conventional retirement systems in our time of rapid population ageing. An effective retirement reform would enable workers to remain in the workforce beyond conventional retirement age for as long as they desire, without their opportunities and decisions being institutionally constrained, so as to help them to secure resources necessary to maintain their socioeconomic wellbeing in later life. Japan deserves special attention in this context; having gone through the world’s fastest population ageing during the 1970s and 1980s, today Japan is far ahead of the rest of the world in this demographic shift.
Amid aa global search for effective retirement reforms, while an increasing number of countries across the world have come to adopt an ‘age-free’ a ‘hyper-aged’ Japan has to date taken what may be referred to as an ‘age-friendly’ approach particularly in its policy efforts in the areas of mandatory retirement and public pension programs. This approach seems to have yielded a positive outcome; over the past few decades, older workers’ labor force participation rates have been steadily on the rise, and today the rates are higher than those in most other developed countries. This approach also has remained notably cautious of calling for a drastic reform, such as privatization, to the traditional public pension
programs. Japan’s ‘age-friendly’ approach to retirement reform may exemplify a unique and more viable variation of retirement reforms for some other countries. Nonetheless, a continuous, closer and critical analysis of the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of Japan’s approach is called for in order for other rapidly ageing countries to examine whether it is worthwhile for them to follow in the future.


Retirement, Population Ageing, Japan: Active Ageing, Policy, Pension





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Masa Higo. (2020). Japan’s Approach to Retirement Reform: An International Perspective. Exlibris Social Gerontology Journal, 18(1), 94–104.

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