TOKYO -- More than 10,000 Japanese workers have been offered or applied for early retirement between January and November as corporations seek to rejuvenate their workforces for a high-tech era.
So far, 11,351 workers across 36 publicly traded companies are looking at early retirement this year, according to data published Friday by Tokyo Shoko Research. This is roughly three times the 2018 total of 4,126 and means the annual tally will top 10,000 for the first time in six years.
Fujitsu had the highest count of early retirees, with 2,850. Such schemes were most common in the struggling electronics industry, where 12 companies offered early retirement, followed by four in pharmaceuticals.
Workforces at major Japanese corporations tend to skew older, with many between the ages of 45 and 52. Meanwhile, about 80% of roughly 1,000 companies surveyed by Japan Research Institute said they faced a shortage of younger talent.
The imbalance also leads to added costs for the companies, since many corporations base pay on seniority. By reducing the number of workers at the highest pay grade, they can shift more resources to workers in growth areas.
Certain companies with early retirement schemes are already stepping up hiring of younger workers or offering generous compensation to those highly skilled in artificial intelligence.
The trend is expected to continue. Seven companies, including Ajinomoto and FamilyMart, already plan to offer early retirement to a combined 1,500 in 2020 and beyond. Many want to complete the step while earnings remain strong.
The domestic market has matured for industries like food, consumer products and retailing, Tokyo Shoko Research said. Companies will continue in 2020 and beyond to review existing businesses while they have the stamina, securing talent in new fields like data analysis and marketing, it said.