Accepted paper:

Elderly workers in Japan: the need for a new approach


Philippe Debroux (Soka University)
Jacques Jaussaud (University of Pau (UPPA))
Julien Martine (University Paris Diderot - Paris 7)
Keith Jackson (SOAS, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on field research and theoretical literature this contribution aims to assess the implications of innovative practices in some Japanese companies to support employment extension and to examine the conditions of emergence of a new employment psychological contract for old and young workers.

Paper long abstract:

Since the 1960s Japanese governments have aimed at reducing discriminatory practices against senior workers and imposed constraints in companies to prolong employment. Those initiatives have been taken concomitantly with the rise of age eligibility of public pension. They must be understood in the framework of the ageing of population and the necessity of balancing the social security budget but, more broadly, in the line of the long-term strategy of creating an inclusive society integrating everybody in a social and work environment that gives the opportunity to remain active at all ages. Challenging in several HRM dimensions, the pressure exerted on companies could also offer the opportunity for a negotiation of a 'new deal' between employers and their older workers and, by extension, younger employees, and trigger a new dynamics in employment relationships for all segments of the workforce. The traditional system of re-hiring retired workers under mutually advantageous financial conditions (pension-work schemes and change of status) explains the relatively high number of elderly Japanese at work. However, it never pushed companies to optimize the talent of older workers. Their policies have focused on keeping older workers at work but without thinking about their development potential. The obligation to keep a larger number of old workers for a longer period force them to innovate in terms of work status and conditions, notably training and career opportunities. In this contribution the terms of 'new deal' and psychological contract are used in the context of new policies and practices, and the perceived choices that they offer to employees and employers. The panel contribution draws on theoretical literature relevant to the topic and on the results of field surveys by the authors about innovative policies and practices that are designed to shape and allow room for negotiation towards delivering this 'new deal'. They will be presented and their implications and limitations highlighted and assessed. Overall, this panel proposes to identify the current and emerging policy trends developed by a number of progressive companies to support the continued or - as an emerging policy shift - 'prolonged' employment of older workers.

panel S6_08
Towards a political and economic 'new deal' in Japanese employment polices and practices? Exploring the social and psychological impact of prolonging the working life of older employees in Japan