List of Columns: http://urc.or.jp/fukuokagrowth-2015-2016-column?lang=en
Column 02. Diverse Post-Retirement Lifestyles for Women
Among the young women that I have met, the general consciousness is that marriage is an extremely appropriate way to deal with economic concerns about the future. For example, I do not doubt at all the story of a single woman in her thirties who was shocked when she found out how meager her future pension would be, declared that she would find a marriage partner because she could not live on that pension after retiring, and did so within a year.
Talking to Takeo Ogawa, a special researcher at the Fukuoka Asian Urban Research Center (Kyushu University professor emeritus) who specializes in social gerontology, I came to understand that it is now necessary to use the power of the government and community to change the social environment for the elderly, such as reform the social welfare system and how people live after retirement. I used to think that marriage was the only solution, but it was a moment when I realized that from an expert’s perspective, marriage is not the only solution.
In present-day Japan, which is drawing attention from throughout the world as a super gray society, many people, regardless of age, are concerned about their post-retirement life. In terms of women, however, women’s labor participation rate is so low that Japan has had to set a numerical target for 2020 of having women fill 30% of leadership positions (from the Japan Revitalization Strategy), and the current conditions are such that a growing number of women are leaving their jobs (particularly full-time positions) after getting married. In the U.S. and Europe, around 30% of management position are held by women (2011), but in Japan, that figure is 11.1% (2012). It is thought that this is for various reasons, including that even if women return to work after getting married and having children, many take up part-time positions. Marriage and having children have a major impact, and Takeo Ogawa says, “women’s careers are unstable.”
While in Japan, the issue is getting women into the work force, the issue for the U.S. and Europe, particularly the U.S., is what happens after women start working—that is, discussion of and support for life after retirement. In order to achieve an independent life after retirement, it is important to create an environment in which effective use can be made of women with unstable career paths.
Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, the first female high school principal in California, U.S., was shocked when she discovered what insurance and benefits she would receive after retiring. She subsequently established AARP, an organization for the elderly, in 1958 to spread the idea of productive aging and to meet the health insurance needs of retirees. In addition to supplying information on necessary insurance and financial services for that generation and providing volunteer opportunities under the motto of “to serve, not to be served,” AARP is known throughout the world for its political influence which includes proposing policies and propagandizing in order to raise the quality of life for the aged.
The service industry is a major industry in Fukuoka City, and it is important to make use of women and the elderly if the value added by people is to be large. Although different people have different views of marriage, it would probably be desirable to increase the number of women working whether unmarried or married and to have a fundamental debate about the diverse ways people can live their lives after retirement.