South Korea's poverty rate among older people is close to 40 percent, and many 65 and older feel they have no choice but to continue working.

In Asia, in East Asia, where populations are graying  faster than anywhere else in the world, there is an urgent need for more flexibility. Japan, South Korea and China have all experimented with policy changes -

Such as corporate subsidies and retirement adjustments - to accommodate population shifts. Now, with the rest of the world not far behind, many nations will most likely look to Asia for lessons on how to respond to similar crisis.

No rest for retirees in Asia. In Japan, a rapidly aging societies, older workers face pressure to toil well into their 70s.

All Yashihito Oonami wants to do is retire and give his worn body a rest. Instead, every morning at 1:30. Mr Oonami, 73, wakes up and drives an hour to a fresh produce market on an islet in Tokyo Bay.

While loading Mushrooms, ginger root, sweet potatoes, radishes and other vegetables into his car, he frequently lifts boxes that weigh more than 15 pounds, straining his back. He then drives across Japan's capital city, making restaurant deliveries up to 10 times a day.

''As long as my body lets me, I need to keep working.'' Mr. Oonami said  on a recent morning, checking off orders on a clipboard as he walked briskly through the market.

WITH populations across East Asia declining and fewer young people entering the work force, increasingly workers like Mr. Oonami are toiling well into their 70s and beyond. Companies desperately need them, and the older employees desperately need the work.

Early retirement ages have bloated pension rolls, making it difficult for governments in Asia to pay retirees enough money each month to live on.

Demographers have warned for years about a looming demographic time bomb in wealthy nations. Japan and its neighbors have started to feel the effects, with government companies - and most of all, older residents- grappling with the far-reaching consequences of an ageing society. The changes have been most pronounced in the workplace.

Working at his age ''is not fun,'' said Mr. Oonami, rummaging through a box of carrots. ''But I do it to survive.''

For some older people, the demand for workers has brought new opportunities and leverage with employers, especially if they felt pushed out by early retirement ages in favor of younger workers.

Now, the question these ageing nations are grappling with is how to adapt to the new reality - and potential benefits - of an older workforce, while ensuring that people can retire after a lifetime of work without falling into poverty.

Now, with the rest of the world not far behind, many nations will most likely look to Asia for lessons in how to respond to similar crises.

''Are you just going to panic about it and run around being frightened?'' said Stuart Gietel Basten, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

''Or do you say, 'It's very complex, and we ''l have to adapt our lives and our institutions in lots and lots of different ways?' ''

The World Students Society thanks authors Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida.


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