[Outlook]We’re not wanted, so let’s get outFriends of mine have begun to quit their jobs before they turn 50. The expression “voluntary resignation” is just a euphemism. In fact, it means they have been forced out the door.
As the age when one is supposed to become an executive has dropped into the late 40s, people have to “voluntarily resign” if they fail to become an executive by that age. This is a new practice for people in their 50s, the Korean baby boomers. It is hard to stay when younger people with less experience become supervisors.
Korean baby boomers are the people born from 1955, shortly after the end of the Korean War to 1963, when the government started working to lower birth rates. They are now aged 44 to 52.
According to the National Statistical Office, the people in this age group account for nearly 15 percent of the population ― that’s 7.13 million Koreans. Among them, 2.2 million work for companies, and they have started to quit their jobs before many of them are ready to retire. The baby boomers are being pushed off the stage.
The average retirement age at Korean companies is 57. But in fact, the average age at which people quit their jobs is 52.3, according to the LG Economic Research Institute. Companies prefer “young blood” because wages for elder workers are higher. Young and competent people are seeking jobs everywhere. Early retirement of baby boomers is the natural consequence.
As students, my generation worked hard, even though nearly 100 students had to study in the same classroom. Even though times were hard, we believed that we could achieve anything as long as we worked hard. We went through competitive school examinations. After graduation, we worked hard and achieved rapid growth.
However, the Korean baby boom generation is not the analog generation or the digital generation. It is the “digilog” generation, the one that is sandwiched between the two. During the financial crisis of the late 1990s, many of my generation were laid off or fired due to massive restructuring. The ones who survived are now being pushed aside by younger people who have advanced faster.
But this feels unfair. We still have abilities. We can speak and understand English, even though our pronunciation is not as good as that of young people who have studied abroad in English-speaking countries. We may have a more extensive vocabulary because English education was a key part of our schooling. We went abroad for business trips. We have experience living in foreign countries.
We need to find a way to survive. We may need to look outside the country. There is no reason for us to stay here, where 48 million people are struggling to thrive.
The U.S. monthly magazine “International Living” released its quality of living index recently. According to that index, Korea ranks 50th among 195 countries. The report considered nine categories: cost of living, culture and leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety and climate.
There are as many as 37 countries where the cost of living is lower than in Korea but the quality of life is higher.
Among the top 10 countries, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Argentina have a cost of living lower than in Korea.
France was considered to be the best place to live. In France, outside of Paris, one can find a house for around 100 million won (107,000 dollars). Who would chose to suffer in Seoul when they could live in Provence, the Cote d’Azure or Brittany?
If a Korean sells an apartment in Seoul, he or she can buy a couple of mansions in France, each one of them on a vast site with acres of verdant land. And the wine is great.
Italy is good too, because the country boasts a pleasant climate, beautiful landscape and rich history. If a pleasant climate is one’s main goal then Zimbabwe, Malta and South Africa are recommended.
Are you afraid of a language barrier? Study a new language for six months and you can get by. Are you afraid that you will not be able to make money? No matter where we live, we can only survive if we have good ideas and strong willpower.
Emerging from its financial crisis, Korea opened its doors to the world. But that was a passive type of globalization. To go one step further, we should open the doors on our own. That is the second phase of opening, a more active move. The baby boomers can be the leaders here. We have the right skills for the job.
Let’s sell our apartments and leave the country for a better quality of life after retirement. A big world is waiting for us out there. Baby boomers, let’s leave for the wide world!
*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok