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Growing old, gracefully: senior citizens in the workplace




For Eiji and Kumiko Ishikawa, the working day starts as early as 5 a.m. Having loaded the requisite equipment into their van, they set off for their first job of the day, a 14-story high-rise in western Tokyo.

They unload mops and brushes, roll out the hoses, and plug in the industrial polisher and fan as they go about their work cleaning each floor of the building, forgoing the use of elevators in favor of the stairs as a courtesy to residents.

There’s a youthfulness about their efficiency and vigor, which is only remarkable in that the Ishikawas are both in their 70s.

“Our business started mainly because we wanted to find a way to remain active, fit and healthy after retirement,” says Kumiko, who, despite the physical demands of work, recently became a member of a sports gym.

“We also considered opening a yakitori restaurant,” Eiji says, “but there were more start-up costs, which we didn’t have, and we didn’t want to sit around waiting for people to come to us. We wanted to be more proactive.”

The Ishikawas (not their real names) have barely missed a day’s work since starting their cleaning business on Christmas Day in 1998 — a day they remember with some nostalgia following months of demonstrating their enterprising spirit by knocking on the doors of countless realtors and other businesses in an effort to get their two-person enterprise up and running.

After months of rejections, Eiji received a call on his mobile phone as the couple returned home from a Christmas concert with their children. The caller, a realtor Eiji had business-carded a few weeks earlier, asked if they could clean up an old two-story house that had recently been vacated. They immediately accepted, even though it would pay well below the going rate.

They have been in high demand ever since, a result, they believe, of an unbending attention to detail. They have even hired a full-time hand, a similarly fastidious woman who is in her late 70s.

“We plan to carry on until we are 80,” says Eiji, a former salesman, whose lean frame and mental agility belie his 75 years, while a perpetually gracious Kumiko pours him a cup of steaming hot coffee. “It’s physically demanding work and at the end of the working day we’re pretty zonked, but we hope to carry on as long as we can.”

They are not alone. According to a 2013 Cabinet Office survey of male and female workers aged between 35 and 64, more than 50 percent of respondents expressed a desire to continue in employment past 65 years of age. Another nationwide survey the same year placed that figure at more than 63 percent.

Data from other nations have slightly different stories to tell. A 2013 Gallup poll showed 75 percent of the workforce in the U.S. believed they would continue working after retirement age, although another poll indicated only 25 percent of over 65s were actually employed or actively searching for work.

In the U.K., meanwhile, where enforced retirement was proscribed in 2011 and rising living costs have seen more and more people postponing their golden handshake, the percentage of over 65s in employment or seeking work in 2013 was still only 10.1 percent, a reported increase of almost 50 percent over five years earlier.

Government statistics in Japan indicate 60 as being the mandatory retirement age set at 80.5 percent of companies employing more than 30 people, while 16.9 percent stipulated a retirement age from 65. Data also shows the numbers of over 60s in the workplace has steadily climbed from 9.2 million in 2000 to 12.5 million in 2013, giving Japan an “effective” retirement age of “close to 70,” according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Masahide Yaginuma, a careers counsellor and financial planner specializing in support for seniors, says these statistics are influenced by the eligible age for full pension benefits, which is now 65, leaving a gap of up to five years that many choose to fill for what are, predominantly, though not exclusively, financial reasons.

On the face of it, this would appear to be good news. With a falling birthrate and growing elderly population, the country’s workforce is also aging at an alarming rate. At present, 1 in 4 people are over 65, and over the next 20 years this is projected to increase to 1 in 3, while the dependency rate (the ratio of the nonworking age population to the working-age population) is estimated to rise to a staggering 0.96 by 2050 from 0.6 in 2012.

Equally alarming is the speed with which the country is approaching its so-called hyper-aged society.

According to Atsushi Seike, a professor of labor economics at Keio University, Japan’s population has aged more than four times faster than France’s and two times faster than Germany’s.

Seike is among a number of experts who believe that Japan is in need of a new paradigm, especially with regard to an aging attitude that exists within many larger businesses and a silver employment support network that was created 40 years ago and still uses the age of 55 as its benchmark for finding work for unemployed seniors — a relic from a time decades ago when the country’s mandatory retirement age was 55.

“We have to change not only the ‘Silver Jinzai (human resources) Center’ system, but also the employment system, which is built on an obsolete model based on a 60-year life span,” says Hiroko Akiyama, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Gerontology.

The situation has altered drastically, particularly with the baby boom generation, who are expected to live until well into their 80s or even 90s, Akiyama says.

“Today’s seniors are not only healthier but also better educated and don’t want the kind of ‘welfare employment’ offered by the likes of the silver jinzai centers,” she says in reference to the country’s senior-targeting human resources system, which was started in 1975 to provide light, often uninspiring community-based employment with restricted hours and low pay.

Nor, it would seem, are they happy with a practice that is prevalent among companies to extend employee contracts beyond 60, but at a vastly reduced rate of pay.

“That’s not only demeaning and even insulting to people who have given 30 or 40 years service to a company, but also counterintuitive,” says Norio Yamamura, 61, who last year forewent the opportunity to extend his employment at a Tokyo company specializing in the manufacture of measuring devices known as rheometers. “It means you are halving the salaries of 60-year-old workers in order to bring in younger replacements, who need to be trained and whose numbers are increasingly in short supply.”

Since a revision in 2013 to the Elderly Employment Stabilization Law that effectively obliged companies to keep on employees over 60 who wish to continue working, those businesses extending the offer of employment to age 65 has increased from 48 percent to 72.5 percent, though many simply re-employ retirees on a nonpermanent contract basis with inferior conditions, experts say. Honda Motor Corp. is a significant addition to those lifting their retirement age to 65, a move the automaker announced in late November.

“It makes little difference what the government tries to enforce,” says Kunitaka Nakajima, 72, who heads the human resources development division at MyStar60, a staffing agency specializing in senior work placements, as he removes a piece of paper from the pocket of his crisply starched shirt.

On it is printed a list of companies Nakajima deals with, and in neat handwriting next to each is a number — the maximum age, he says, that those businesses are willing to accept new recruits. Some are as low as 50, others as high as 67, he says, as he deftly shifts from low-tech pen and paper to field an inquiry from a client on his smartphone.

“At the end of the day, it’s these people who have the last say,” says Nakajima, who formerly held administrative posts at Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co. and later an apparel company before joining MyStar, where 60 percent of the 333 staffers are aged between 65 and 80. “Attitudes (among businesses) toward seniors hasn’t changed one iota since I retired (at 60), especially with regard to administrative work.”

Indeed, many of MyStar60’s 6,114 registrants express a preference for administrative work but, like many older job searchers, the reality is far more stark.

“Without a real change of attitude from all sectors of industry, seniors will continue to be employed in building management, elderly care and cleaning, because basically that’s all there is at the moment,” says MyStar60 Executive Managing Director Yukari Takahira, 58. “The auto, construction and other industries need to come to a consensus within their respective industries about exactly which areas seniors can be employed, even if only on a part-time basis. There are some very capable men and women out there who are being poorly utilized.”

Takahira echoes the sentiments of Noriyuki Okamoto, president of Japan Think Tank Academy and an expert in aging society systems, who believes it is pointless compelling companies to raise their mandatory retirement age without first ensuring workers are sufficiently equipped to work to that age. Company employees should actively look at brushing up on their professional proficiency or expanding their horizons, even as early as 40 or 50, they say.

“This will extend their employability,” Takahira says. “So it’s a secondhand car, but it’s one that has been looked after and kept in good working order, or customized for extended performance.”

Even then, however, company attitudes toward seniors will still have to change. As it stands, senior employees who do not advance along the management path can tend to become little more than baggage thrown in the spare room, something that sets a poor psychological precedent for onlooking younger employees, Takahira says.

“That’s one surefire way to crush motivation,” says Takahira, whose company has secured employment for around a quarter of its registrants. “I think the issue here is how to get companies to look past the notion of welfare employment and find a way to get the best out of senior workers as a positive way to improve company effectiveness.”

In the public domain, too, efforts are being made to break the mold. At the Tokyo Foundation for Employment Services, a new project convened last year aims at encouraging new and existing enterprises to employ senior workers. A ¥3 million subsidy is offered to small businesses employing a minimum of four people, at least half of which must be “seniors” — or, in Tokyo Foundation for Employment Services speak, over 55.

Last year, three community cafes and a telesales company took advantage of this scheme, while a new crop of applicants this year includes a filmmaking company largely made up of retired broadcasting technicians, according to Mario Yamamoto, who heads the Tokyo Foundation for Employment Services’ employment center.

The Tokyo Foundation for Employment Services also works with 12 other “active senior employment support centers” run by municipalities in the capital, and a recent development is a surge in numbers of over 65s registering with the centers for work, Yamamoto says. In 2014, around 50 percent of those registering at the 12 “active” facilities were over 65, an increase of 15 percent over 2012, he says.

“A primary factor here is the baby boomers, who are now over 65 and are prepared to work as long as they are able,” says Yamamoto, adding that around 30 percent of 2014 registrants at the Tokyo Foundation for Employment Services and “active” centers found gainful employment. “Until now the general trend was for Japanese companies to retire staff at 60 and then bring in young graduates. Businesses haven’t managed to break free of this mindset, even though it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to find those younger employees, especially for small and medium businesses. … So we need to persuade them to continue employing (retirement age staff) … (or), look at other seniors eager to re-enter the workforce who might not have the zip they once had but still have many years of experience and a high level of skill.”

Tokyo University’s Akiyama believes that even with such focus realignment, little will change without a more flexible approach to senior employment. Part of the Institute of Gerontology’s research is a test project in Chiba Prefecture that aims to monitor the impact of a more flexible post-retirement work regime that allows people to work not just according to their ability, but their own time constraints as well. It also incorporates a lifelong education program and technological innovations — robots, telecommuting and so on — to increase efficiency and reduce unnecessary stress and strain.

The results, she says, point to a considerably “happier and healthier” senior population.

Seniors such as the Ishikawas are among a growing number for whom employment and health are closely intertwined.

According to a Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training survey, an increasing number of working seniors over 65 are citing health, ikigai (quality of life/motivating force) and societal participation before financial needs as the main motivating factors in extending employment.

“We could just about scrape by on our pension,” Eiji Ishikawa says, echoing the sentiments of many retirees who are desperate to top up an increasingly inadequate pension. “However, that would mean giving up some of the very things outside work that provide a more psychological sense of well-being — the occasional dinner with friends or short vacations with the family. It would mean we were existing rather than living, and we want to live.”

The final installment of a two-part series on lifestyle issues that affect the elderly. For the first installment on the correlation between Okinawa’s traditional diet and longevity, visit


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Big Data

StructureFlow’s accelerated 2020 growth sees expansion of international operations, customer base and new hires




StructureFlow’s accelerated 2020 growth sees expansion of international operations, customer base and new hires
StructureFlow, a legal tech start-up helping lawyers and finance professionals quickly and easily visualise complex legal structures and transactions, announces two hires to its senior leadership team and continued expansion of its international operations and customer roster. The start-up is also currently participating in Allen & Overy’s ‘Fuse’ Incubator and Founders Factory’s 6-month FinTech accelerator programme as part of its growth strategy.

Founded by former corporate lawyer Tim Follett, StructureFlow is a cloud-based software that was developed to address the difficulties and inefficiencies he faced when trying to visualise complex legal structures and transactions using tools that were not up to the task. The start-up was formally launched earlier this year at a time when many firms were, and continue to be, heavily focused on finding new technologies that enable efficient collaborative working.

Global growth and expanding beyond the legal industry

StructureFlow opened its first international office outside of the UK in Singapore earlier this year and has been running successful pilots of its visualisation software with prestigious international law firms. In addition to the growing customer base in the UK – the company is expanding internationally and is excited to announce that it will be onboarding customers in India, Australia, the Netherlands, and Canada in the next month.

With the belief that accounting teams, investment banks, private equity firms and venture capital firms will also benefit from access to StructureFlow’s visual structuring tool, the start-up has begun venturing beyond its legal customer base working with a small number of asset management and private fund businesses. This includes M7 Real Estate, a leading specialist in pan-European, multi-tenanted commercial real estate investment and asset management operations.

“We decided to expand internationally despite the pandemic as there is a heightened need for new technologies to support global organisations who are restructuring business models to adapt to the ‘new normal’,” said Alex Baker, Head of Growth. “Our product helps law firms and other financial institutions to work securely whilst working from anywhere and our growing Singapore operations will allow us to better serve our customers in Asia Pacific.”


New hires join the senior leadership team

Jean-Paul de Jong joins StructureFlow as its Chief Technology Officer and Chief Security Officer along with Owen Oliveras its Head of Product.

With a background in enterprise software development, information security and a track record of many successful large-scale integrations, De Jong has held several prominent positions within regulated industries in both private and public sectors.

Oliver is a co-founder of Workshare Transact, the legal transaction management application that was acquired by Litera in 2019, having been previously a corporate lawyer with Fieldfisher.

Together, they bring decades of legal and technology leadership and expertise to expedite StructureFlow’s product development and will be instrumental in developing the software to meet the demands of the company’s broadening customer base.

Tim Follett, CEO of StructureFlow, commented on these developments, “The decision to further expand our presence across the legal and financial technology markets in Europe, Asia and North America is a logical step in our business growth strategy. The addition of Jean-Paul de Jong and Owen Oliver will bring first-class engineering, security and product expertise to our team, bolstering our ability to build and scale innovative enterprise products.”

Accelerator programmes to complement growth strategy

In a move to broaden its global presence and increase the impact of its product, StructureFlow has joined two reputable accelerator programmes this year. Following the company’s success as the inaugural winner of Slaughter and May’s Collaborate programme, StructureFlow has subsequently joined the fourth cohort of Fuse, Allen & Overy’s flagship legal tech incubator.
More recently, the team has partnered with Founders Factory, joining its FinTech accelerator programme giving StructureFlow unparalleled access to the programme’s corporate partners. The programme also includes mentorship supporting the company’s growth and impact of its product across the legal, financial services and other key sectors.

“Being accepted into two industry-acclaimed incubator and accelerator programmes is a crucial part of our expansion plans and will provide us with expert guidance to further develop our visualisation software. By utilising the expertise of industry experts, we expedite our plan of becoming a global platform for a range of organisations and stakeholders to visually engage with essential corporate information,” Follett added.


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The most underrated aspects of every online bookmaker




Thanks to the internet boom, we can bet on our favorite sports without leaving our homes. In fact, we can also do it from our handheld devices, which is even more convenient. Most people love the fact they have access to tons of sports and bonuses, but they also forget that there are other important things.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most underrated aspects of every online bookmaker. Those are things that people pay little to no attention, despite being really important. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but the vast majority of bettors fall into this category.

The customer support quality

The first aspect of every bookie that most people never check out is the quality of the customer support team. Some of them think that they will never need to use it, whereas others just don’t care.

While it’s true that there are more important things you need to take into account, the customer support service should also be on your list. Just imagine a situation in which you have a problem with your account, and you don’t have anyone to ask for help. In order to avoid these scenarios, make sure that the operator you choose has a good customer support service. Sadly, there are only a few betting websites that offer high-quality support services, such as Betway and a few other big names.

The terms and conditions of some bonuses

It might be hard to believe, but there are many people who don’t even try reading the T&C of the bonuses. Most of the promos out there usually have a catchy title that indicates how much bonus cash you can get. As a result, some bettors immediately decide to take advantage of it without reading the rules.

Needless to say, there are many things that can go wrong in this situation, so always read the T&C, regardless of the offer you choose. If you pick a legit online bookie, you will probably need just a few minutes to read the full conditions. Feel free to check out this Betway promotion if you are looking for a bonus, whose conditions are easy to understand.

Security features

The next thing that some bettors don’t even bother checking out is the security features. While it’s true that betting online is really convenient, it can also be dangerous because there are many people out there who will do everything in their power to get access to your banking information.

As a result, some of the most prominent gambling companies have implemented various security features. Nevertheless, only a handful of bettors actually pay attention to these features and how they work. Most people either don’t care or they just assume that the bookie will protect them. Sadly, this is not always the case, especially if you decide to open an account on some betting websites.

There are loads of available security features, such as an SSL certificate, different encryption tools, and more.

The lack of a mobile app/website

Let’s face it, most bettors around the world are playing from their handheld devices. Despite the fact that bookmakers have good desktop websites, most of us just don’t have the time to visit them.

Unless your job requires us to stay in front of a computer, we’re always on the go, which means that we don’t have any other option to use apart from a mobile app or a mobile website. Naturally, every prominent online bookmaker tries to come up with either of these two things so that more people can access it.

Sadly, there are still some bettors who decide to open an account and deposit a lot of money from their computers, only to realize that the particular operator doesn’t have any mobile services. If you don’t want to end up in a similar situation, make sure you take a good look at everything before you sign up. You can even contact customer support if you can’t find anything.

A surprisingly fast sign-up process

Regardless of which bookmaker you choose, you will have to open an account in order to place bets on sports. In some cases, this process can take a few minutes, which could get annoying, especially when you have to go through the T&C.

However, there are gambling operators where you can open an account in just a matter of seconds. This is usually great because you won’t have to waste time. That said, there are cases where you can sign up just by providing an email and nothing else.

Although this might seem fantastic at first, it should ring a bell that something might be wrong. So, unless you don’t want to regret your decision later, make sure you check out your account settings once you log into it to see if you can provide additional information about yourself. This is an important process that many bettors don’t pay attention to. At first, it might not seem like a big deal, but once it’s time to withdraw your winnings, you could have problems.

FAQ section

The last thing that hardly anyone pays attention to is the FAQ section. This is more or less related to the customer support department, but we’ve decided to point it out in a separate category because it deserves more attention.

The FAQ section is the place where you can find answers to questions that most people ask. In most cases, these questions involve any potential account/bonus issues, but they could also include information about the payment methods.

The reason why this place is important is due to the fact it’s a huge timesaver. Instead of having to talk to someone about your issue and wait for a response, you can quickly take a look at the FAQs and find your answer.

Fortunately for us, almost all top online bookmakers have a decent FAQ category, so there is a pretty high chance you’ll have access to it even if you haven’t noticed yet.


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How can companies manage a fragmented workforce during this winter of upheaval?




Wales is going into a ‘firebreak’ lockdown from Friday[i]. Other areas of the UK are in different tiers of the new Covid tier system, with several northern regions now living under the most severe restrictions of tier 3. Adrian Lewis, director at Active Absence, says as the situation is continually evolving, employers will find the next few months hugely challenging.

Adrian says, “While the government’s advice is for people to work from home where possible, the reality is that many work in roles not designed for remote working, some will be isolating and there are different restrictions in regions across Britain – making it exceptionally difficult to manage people and keep track of where they are working.”

“Another complication is that someone might be in one tier at work and another at home. Others could find themselves suddenly having to self-isolate as the increased use of the NHS track and trace will start to pick up more people who may have been in close contact with someone with Covid.

“During the first lockdown in March employers embraced remote working and many implemented polices and procedures to ensure this went as smoothly as possible. As the UK faces a winter of upheaval and varying restrictions, it’s more important than ever for employers to have robust systems in place to keep track of staff.”

Employers also have the ongoing challenge of supporting employee health and mental wellbeing. New research from the University of Glasgow[ii] amongst 3000 people revealed the first lockdown had a major impact on the UK’s mental health. One in four people said they have experienced at least moderate levels of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts increased from 8% to 10%, and this was particularly prevalent amongst young adults (18-29 years), rising from 12.5% to 14%.

Adrian says, “Winter can affect people’s mental wellbeing in a normal year but add to the mix the impact of the pandemic and several more months of restrictions or lockdowns and some employees will really struggle and will need more support from their employers.”

“We recommend employers invest in absence management technology to track where staff are working and to gain a complete overview of which staff are working, those off sick or on holiday and those who might be self-isolating due to Covid, all of which can all be managed remotely in the cloud.”

“This technology can also help employers manage people’s mental wellbeing as they are able to track absence and see if any patterns emerge, such as having a lot of time off or always off on a Monday. They can then contact that member of staff to find out if they need extra support.

“As work become increasingly fragmented it’s for businesses to have real-time visibility over their employees to ensure the business can run as close to normal as possible and staff are supported even if they aren’t physically in the office.”

For more information on absence management software visit:




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