The pi­lot in the cock­pit? In Ja­pan, he might be a re­tiree

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

NA­GASAKI, Ja­pan — Shigekazu Miyazaki is spend­ing what should have been his re­tire­ment 25,000 feet in the air.

Miyazaki, a pi­lot with nearly four decades’ ex­pe­ri­ence at All Nip­pon Air­ways, Ja­pan’s largest air­line, left the car­rier last year at its manda­tory re­tire­ment age of 65. But rather than take up golf or fish­ing, Miyazaki since April has been pi­lot­ing 39-seat pro­pel­ler planes for Ori­en­tal Air Bridge, a tiny air­line that con­nects the south­west­ern city of Na­gasaki to a group of re­mote is­lands.

“I never would have thought I’d still be fly­ing at 65,” Miyazaki, who is trim and has a deep voice and a full head of gray hair, said be­fore a re­cent flight. “But I’m still healthy, and I love to fly, so why not do it as long as I can?”

A man in his sev­enth decade ex­tend­ing his com­mer­cial fly­ing ca­reer still qual­i­fies as a nov­elty in Ja­pan — but maybe not for long.

The ag­ing of Ja­pan’s work­force is prompt­ing a re­think­ing of tra­di­tional ca­reer paths and gov­ern­ment safety nets. The coun­try has the world’s long­est life ex­pectancy, lit­tle im­mi­gra­tion and a dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion of young work­ers, the re­sult of decades of low birthrates. Last month, the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment said the num­ber of births last year fell be­low 1 mil­lion for the first time since it be­gan track­ing the fig­ure in 1899.

All that makes older work­ers more cru­cial to the econ­omy. More than half of Ja­panese men over 65 do some kind of paid work, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment sur­veys, com­pared with a third of Amer­i­can men and as lit­tle as 10 per­cent in parts of Europe.

Ja­pan’s econ­omy is be­gin­ning to hum again, thanks largely to de­mand for its ex­ports, but its lack of work­ers could limit growth. Un­em­ploy­ment is a rock-bot­tom 2.8 per­cent, and com­pa­nies are scram­bling to find staff. At the same time, re­tir­ing baby boomers are strain­ing the pen­sion sys­tem, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to raise the age at which older peo­ple can col­lect ben­e­fits.

Ja­pan may of­fer a peek into the near fu­ture for other de­vel­oped coun­tries with ag­ing work­forces, in­clud­ing the United States.

“If places like Ger­many and

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.