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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
Japan's elderly are urged to work
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

86-year-old Rin Morita
The elderly should be seen as a resource, the government says
Japan's government says the nation has to work harder to encourage elderly people to remain in the workforce.

They need to see them as a resource not a burden - invaluable manpower instead of people who just need support and care.

In a White Paper published on Friday, the government says the transformation to an ageing society is unprecedented.

In 50 years' time, more than two-fifths of the population will be over 65, twice the current figure.

Issues such as pensions and care for the elderly are becoming more important for politicians as a result.

At the moment, there are more than three people of working age to support each person over 65. In 2055, that figure will have fallen significantly.

Roughly speaking, there will just be one younger person to support each pensioner.

Employment opportunities

The government plans specific measures to try to ease the hardship caused by such demographic challenges.

These include promoting employment among the elderly and helping people in their 50s to shape post-retirement life plans.

An ageing society can still be a vibrant society, it says.

The growing number of elderly people here means their influence is growing too. A scandal over the payment of state pensions is likely to be one of the most important issues during national elections here next month.

The lack of care provision for elderly people and the growing income gap between them and those still in work are also expected to feature during the campaign.

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