[EDITORIALS]Coping with national agingThe work force in our major manufacturing industries is aging rapidly. According to the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the average age of employees in the shipbuilding and garment industries has increased by 5-6 years in a few years’ time. The average age of employees at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering is 43. This is the result of low new-hiring rates, difficulties in laying off existing workers and younger workers’ disinclination to work in the manufacturing sector.
The aging of employees will result in high wages and low productivity. The organizations will lose vitality, and development of technology will be slow. As a result, the businesses will lose competitiveness. If such a trend continues and expands in major manufacturing industries that need many young workers, they will not be able to lead the Korean economy in the future.
And the trend will get worse. As a growing number of young people shun marriages and children, the productive work force will begin to decrease in 2010. Korea became an aging society in 2000, and it will become an aged society (over 14 percent of population over 65) in 2019.
In the near future, it will be difficult to find a youth who will work not only in manufacturing but in any field. Serious problems will arise not only in consumption and investment but also in all social and economic areas. Therefore, the government must pay attention before the problems arise.
We have to lure more youth into manufacturing industries. The unions at major businesses should not harm their companies by insisting on their vested interests in protecting existing workers. Ultimately, we have to change the overall system ― the industrial structure, production facilities and wage system ― to be suitable for these demographic conditions.
Admitting that the aging of society is unavoidable, we must prepare ourselves to minimize the shock from that aging. We have to prepare fundamental and dramatic measures, not just pay subsidies to encourage childbirth.
Aging employees at manufacturers herald the bad effects of an aging society. We must prepare plans to cope with the problem on a national level. Otherwise the bad effects will damage the future of our country.