Photo/Illutration The Asahi Shimbun

As Japan marks Respect-for-the Aged Day on Sept. 20, people who are aged 65 or older being honored now account for a record 29.1 percent of the population.

That estimate, based on the 2015 national census, was released by the internal affairs ministry to coincide with the national holiday.

The number of people who are 65 or older was 3.64 million, 220,000 more than the previous year.

The employment rate among senior citizens hit 25.1 percent. It marked one in every four senior citizens was part of the nation’s workforce.

The number of senior female citizens was 20.57 million, or 32 percent of the total female population, while the number of senior male citizens hit 15.83 million, which was 26 percent of the total male population.

Those aged at 70 or older was 28.52 million, or 22.8 percent of the total population, 610,000 more than the previous year.

The group includes so-called baby-boomers, or “dankai-no-sedai,” who were born between 1947 and 1949.

Japan’s population aging rate is the world’s highest. Italy is a distant second with 23.6 percent, followed by Portugal with 23.1 percent.

The number of working senior citizens, a record 9.06 million, has increased for 17 consecutive years.

The employment rate for senior citizens, the highest among Group of Seven nations, has been on the rise for nine consecutive years.

Senior citizens accounted for 13.6 percent of the total number of workers, which was the highest in history.

The wholesale and retail industry led other industries in terms of the number of senior citizens employed with 1.28 million.

The agriculture and forestry industry placed second with 1.06 million, followed by the service industry with 1.04 million.

More than 70 percent of senior citizen laborers had a part-time job or work under a non-regular employment contract.

More than 30 percent, both male and female, said they chose to be part of the workforce because they “want to work in their own good time.”

But 21.6 percent of such female workers, as well as 16.2 percent of such male workers, said they “want to earn an income to help cover household expenses.”

The central government has reiterated that Japan needs to have a “society where people stay active and never retire,” encouraging senior citizens to continue working.

At the same time, the government has pushed social security reform, asking senior citizens to shoulder more of the medical and caregiving expense burden.

According to an estimate by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s population aging rate will continue increasing in the future.

In 2040, when the second baby-boomers, who were born between 1971 and 1974, turn 65 or older, the rate is expected to hit 35.3 percent.