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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Entrepreneurship and Employment in Demographically Ageing Societies

Project duration: 2013-2016

The research project aims to integrate gerontological discourses of “active aging” into socio-economic thinking on “successfully aging”-societies and examines how employment or self-employment beyond the current age of retirement (positively) influences those employees and the economy as a whole. The population of Japan has aged to such an extent that Japan is demographically now the “oldest” society in the world. Gerontological studies reveal (1) that rising life expectancy goes hand in hand with an improvement in physical and intellectual competence, and (2) that continuous employment at older ages and the level of fitness and quality of life correlate positively. Economists, however, mostly interpret this demographic change pessimistically – especially in relation to economic development. Consequently, economic research points to a significant decline in economic growth in Japan as the labour force shrinks over the coming decades. The question therefore arises: To what extent can longer or even lifelong (self-)employment be thought of as a solution for the challenges of demographic change with potentially positive outcomes. Could lifelong employment even be accompanied by greater health and life satisfaction? Gerontological studies point to a holistic fulfillment of physical, mental, psychological and social needs as conditions for longevity and health. Meanwhile, some economists have started to consider social, emotional and spiritual components besides simply income as factors influencing life satisfaction. But how do these factors affect the working environment, and how do the people involved perceive them? To what extent does Japan fit with the model of wealth creation by lifelong working in an ageing society? This research project integrates gerontological research into longevity and health with discussions on the economic consequences of demographic change. This study presents case studies with interviews and analysis of statistical data. As a theoretical framework, the Schumpeterian theory of economic development and other evolutionary economic theories are used to understand economic development processes and innovative personality.


Kazue Haga Kazue Haga (until April 2016)
Business and Economics