In Britain, a mail carrier's hard route
When Kevin Beazer joined Britain's state-owned Royal Mail 26 years ago, he was a 19-year-old just looking for a good job – and some security. The two companies he had worked for after leaving school went bankrupt amid the headstrong recession of the 1980s. "I was engaged and wanted to get a house," he says. "So I went to Royal Mail. It was always regarded as a job for life, and there was a good pension."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The future hasn't turned out to be quite as idyllic as he thought it would be. Royal Mail has changed dramatically over the years. Under pressure financially, the British version of the US Postal Service has cut back on its pension and other benefits. To get the same retirement pay at 60, which is when the 45-year-old was going to quit his mail duties, Beazer would now have to work until he is 63 or 64. "And that's assuming I would still have this job," he says.
Beazer, a former mail deliverer who now works in the mail center in Bristol, England, still plans to retire around 60. But he'll continue to work part time to boost his income. He has a son in college and a daughter who will be going next year. He thinks he might have to help them pay off loans.
He is scathing about the government and the management of Royal Mail, where a long-running dispute with employees over pay and working practices led to nationwide strikes last year. "I think we are going backwards to a position that will be far worse than the '80s," he says. "There is no such thing as a secure job, and it makes people feel vulnerable." Yasunori Izumi wants to work until he's at least 80 – in part because he wants to dote on his three grandchildren.
"What I live for is our grandchildren," says the cabdriver with a wide grin. "I'm happy to spend my salary on them."
Mr. Izumi has financial reasons to work well past normal retirement age as well. For 30 years, he ran a small rice shop in this industrial city south of Tokyo. Then, large supermarket chains expanded their business across the country, threatening small retailers like him.
Slowly but inexorably, his sales declined.
"It was a heartbreaking choice. But my wife suggested we give up before it was too late," Izumi says. "This is not an era when small retail shops can survive," given that big grocery firms are expanding their footprint nationwide.
Izumi had never thought of retiring. For one thing, he and his wife weren't sure they could get by on their pension. "That's the problem," he says.
Izumi calculates that he would receive only about 60,000 yen a month ($722) from the national pension program, while those who retire from a company get around 200,000 yen ($2,400).
When trying to get a job, many older people like him face limited choices because ageism is so rooted in Japanese society. They often have to settle for positions such as a security guard or cabdriver.