중앙데일리

Baby boomers in numbers

‘베이비부머 표준’ 60년생 B씨의 삶
Statistics Korea releases data profile of a generation

May 19,2010
Mr. B is a middle-aged Korean man, born in 1960 to a rural peasant father and housewife. His generation prided themselves as the unsung heroes of the nation’s rapid industrialization between the 1960s and 1980s, dedicating their lives to hard work and creating Korea Inc., often at the expense of their personal lives. Yet many were left unemployed by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. And now they face the daunting task of supporting their elderly parents and helping their children, who struggle with high unemployment and prohibitively expensive housing.

That is the picture of the average Korean baby boomer that was drawn by Statistics Korea in its recent publication, “The past, present and future of baby boomers as seen through the numbers.”

There were a total of 7.12 million baby boomers, those who were born between 1955 and 1963. They account for 14.6 percent of Korea’s total population.

According to the statistics, Mr. B - the typical baby boomer - was born when the nation’s per-capita GDP was only $79, compared to $17,175 in 2009. B went to elementary and secondary schools with an average class size of 65 students, compared to 28 in 2009. B managed to enter college in 1979 when only 29 percent of male high school graduates went to college, compared to 82 percent now.

After college he got a job at a local manufacturing company in 1986, when 25.9 percent of salaried employees were working in the industrial sector against 23.6 percent in agriculture and 50.5 percent in services. Now the service industry is the biggest employer among local industries, hiring 76 percent of the nation’s paid workers, with only 16.4 percent in manufacturing and 7 percent in agriculture.

B married when he was 28 years old. The average marriage age in 2009 was 31.6 for men and 28.7 for women. B spent his 30s and 40s working hard, building his wealth from scratch and even buying his own house - one of his proudest achievements.

He spent heavily to support his aging parents and growing children, but saved little for his retirement life. B and most of his friends valued property more than any other investment, with real estate accounting for 80 percent of their total wealth on average. The steep increase in property prices over the last few decades helped property to account for a larger share of the asset portfolio.

The 50-year-old B is expected to live almost three more decades (28.89 years for 50-year-old males and 34.82 years for females), but the increasingly lower retirement age (57.14 years on average) is making it difficult for him to sleep at night. Since most of his assets are in real estate, he is short on cash and does not know how to support himself after retirement other than national pension payouts. About 47 percent of Korean males aged 50 to 59 said they will rely on the national pension for financial support in retirement, while 32 percent of the females in that age group said they would rely on bank savings and insurance.

B will soon join Korea’s rapidly aging population. The number of those aged 65 or older accounted for 7.2 percent of the total population in 2000, and the number is expected to expand to 14.3 percent in 2018 and 20.8 percent in 2026.


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

남은 정년 3~7년, 남은 수명은 30년, 자산 대부분이 사는 집 … 쓸 돈 없어


1960년에 태어난 B씨. 올해 만 50세다. 1955년부터 63년 사이에 태어난 이른바 ‘베이비붐 세대(47~55세)’다. 6·25에 참전한 아버지를 뒀다. 부모는 자식을 여럿 두길 소망했다. 그래서 형제자매가 3~4명쯤 되는 게 자연스러웠다. B씨 같은 베이비붐 세대는 2010년 현재 전체 인구의 14.6%(712만5000명)나 된다.

그는 고도성장의 주역이지만 은퇴를 눈앞에 두고 노후 걱정이 태산이다. 수명이 길어져 살 날은 많은데, 아직 노부모 봉양도 더 해야 한다. 자신은 혼자 열심히 공부해 대학 갔는데, 자식들은 학원 안 가면 공부가 안 되는 모양이라 사교육비가 뭉텅뭉텅 나간다. 나라경제가 가난에서 벗어나는 데 인생의 절정기를 바쳤지만, 정작 자신의 노후에 드리운 빈곤의 그늘은 두렵기만 하다.

9일 통계청은 ‘베이비붐 세대의 어제, 오늘 그리고 내일’이라는 자료를 통해 B씨의 일생을 조망했다.

농촌의 시골마을에서 태어난 B. 가난하지만 밝은 미래를 꿈꾸며 학교에 다녔다. 60년 1인당 국민소득은 79달러. 지난해 소득이 1만7175달러인 것과 비교하면 그땐 정말 가난했다. B가 초등학교에 입학한 67년엔 학급당 학생수가 64.8명. 지난해 학급당 학생수(27.8명)와 비교하면 왜 ‘콩나물 교실’이라 불렀는지 이해된다.


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