JinK: Bishop-san, I went to the eye doctor the other day.
Bishop: What for?
JinK: I didn’t have a specific problem; my eyes get tired more easily than they used to
though, so I went in for a regular checkup.
Bishop: Oh, that’s good. So everything was OK.
JinK: Yes thank you, my eyes were fine. Though something surprised me.
Bishop: Hmm? What?
JinK: The doctor was an older Japanese gentleman.
Bishop: Oh that’s good, so you could communicate in Japanese?
JinK: Yes, we could. I was a bit worried since eyes are a very delicate body part,
but both the checkup and diagnosis were very precise. He seemed like
an experienced veteran of his trade.
Bishop: That’s pretty amazing. I didn’t know there were Japanese doctors
like that in the U.S.
JinK: I’m glad there are. It helped a lot, since I don’t know a lot of the English
ophthalmological terminology. But what surprised me more than that was his age.
He was far into his 70’s. You’d never see that in Japan.
Bishop: For sure, you do see a lot more people working in their old age in the U.S.
We don’t have the same system where you work until a certain age and then
have to retire. Some people choose to retire early and do what they want, and
some people keep working in their old age.
JinK: For sure. In Japan, it’s pretty much expected that you work until you’re 65,
the fixed retirement age, and the age at which you can start collecting pension.
Pension used to start at 60 years old, but it got raised to 65 years old, so
three years ago a law passed ensuring that those who wanted to keep working
were guaranteed employment until they turned 65.
Bishop: So you mean to say that people are forced to retire, regardless of their ability
or willingness to keep working? In the U.S., you can get fired for not performing well,
but there’s not a fixed age at which everyone is forced to retire.
That would be age discrimination.
JinK: Well in Japan there are also some people who quit early or continue working on longer,
but retiring at 60 or 65 is the norm. You’re probably familiar with the concepts of
Japan’s system of promotion by seniority and lifetime employment?
These are very deeply rooted traditions.
Bishop: What does that mean?
JinK: You earn lower wages when you’re young, and salary goes up when you get older
and it’s time to pay for your children’s school fees and such, and when your children
grow up you then save up for the future. Then, you retire. There is this concept of
the junior and senior employees supporting each other. So, when someone reaches
a certain age, there’s the expectation that they’ll pass on their seat to a junior employee.
So someone who reaches retirement age but holds on tightly to their position will be
seen as a disgrace by some. Under this system, your employment is guaranteed,
and you will earn enough to support your family, so you don’t have to worry about
winding up on the street some day. Therefore, society as a whole is also quite stable.
Bishop: I think it’s great that you can earn enough to support your family through
each life stage, but it seems like there’s no flexibility. Everyone has their own lifestyle
they envision for themselves.
JinK: Exactly. People are marrying later in life, and a lot of people are choosing to
stay single. In addition to increased diversity in lifestyles, there’s also increased lifespan.
Bishop: I agree. With Japanese lifespan being among the highest in the world, that’s
a lot of healthy people over 65 with nothing to do; it’s a waste.
JinK: Yes it is. In the U.S. a lot of older people continue working. I went to a crepe store
a while back run by a man in his 70’s. It took him a while to make it, but he was so charming
it made me want to cheer him on. I mean, speed at the cash register isn’t everything.
Bishop: I agree.
JinK: I actually think Japan should get rid of the fixed age retirement system. People
don’t have to continue working every day like they’re still a salaryman, but if they still want to,
they should be allowed to continue contributing to society. As Japan’s population continues
to age, there are fewer and fewer young people supporting each old person, so there’s a good
chance that the current pension system will break down, and personally I’d like to remain
active my whole life.
Bishop: Personally, I’d like to retire and live the easy life as soon as I can.
JinK: Exactly; each person has different desires. I think a system that allows all sorts of lifestyles
is the best. The U.S. is a lot more competitive, but there is also a lot more freedom, and
everyone can pursue their own passion. Of course Japan has its own sort of competitiveness,
but there’s a lot less freedom but with a high level of stability.
Bishop: So, JinK-san, how do you plan to remain active later in life?
JinK: I like living overseas, so I think that once I’m 80 or so, I’ll move to Germany and
be a driver for hire, going 200 km/h on the Autobahn!
Bishop: Eh, wow, I don’t think I’ll be joining you in that car…
JinK: Bishop-san, watch what you say… that sounds like age discrimination!
Bishop: Ah… now that you put it that way, I suppose… but still not getting in the car
JinK: Just kidding. I am attracted to being an 80 year old driver and doing 200 km/h
on the Autobahn, but it’s probably a bit too dangerous…
Fact#19. In Japan, a lot of people have to retire at a certain pre-detemined age.
by Bishop & JinK.
PS. Please feel free to make comments below if you have comments or questions about the facts between the US and Japan or on each country. We will incorporate your questions in one of the subtle, but amazing facts, if that would be helpful for you to understand cultural differences between the two countries. Any subtle, but amazing facts between your country and the US/Japan would be also welcome.