[EDITORIALS]A demographic deadlineThe burden that will be imposed on Korean society as the population ages is looming before us. The National Statistical Office has predicted that the number of people in the economically active age bracket of 25 to 49 will peak in 2007 at 20.8 million, and will then begin to decline. A decline in the working population means that the country’s production capacity will fall, and that the economic burden on the people will increase.
Usually, it is the age group between 15 and 64 that is regarded as representing people in society who can work. But its core is those between 25 and 49, since students between 15 and 24 are generally not working full-time, and many of those over 50 are retired. The urgent message is that the reduction of our economically active population will begin just two years from now. We cannot postpone dealing with the economic and social problems raised by the aging of society.
In the long run, we have to find ways to increase the birth rate. But what is more urgent is coming up with measures to utilize the production capacity of those between 50 and 64 who were forced to retire. It is natural that businesses competing in the global market would want workforces as young as possible. But useful people are being discarded too early.
Still, companies should not be forced to rehire older workers, or to extend contracts. Measures are needed to build the kind of work environment that will encourage older workers to come back. The government needs to introduce a wage peak system, job placement for the aged, wage subsidies for companies hiring older people, and so on.
In addition, the government should enhance the productivity of the core working population. In the end, it is the young working population that should maintain our national competiveness, and support a growing elderly population.