Create jobs for the elderlyThe Korea National Statistical Office released a report shortly before Oct. 2, Senior Citizen’s Day. The report warns of a serious problem in our society. As of July 2007, one in 10 Koreans, or 9.9 percent of the entire population, is elderly, or older than 65 years old.
If this trend persists, by 2018 14.3 percent of Korea’s population will be elderly citizens and 20.8 percent will be senior citizens.
While our society is aging, the Korean birthrate is among the lowest in the world. The two combined trends will create a society that is short of workforce and is therefore less competitive.
In the meantime, some of the elderly people in our society have spent all they had to raise their children, without saving for retirement.
Last year, 30 percent of households consisting of elderly people were reported to have no income and no assets. Some found it extremely hard to overcome loneliness and disease so they chose to end their lives.
From next year, the government will start a pension program for senior citizens, but this cannot resolve the issue.
Some 2 trillion won ($2.1 billion) of next year’s state budget will be spent for the pension program. This is a huge amount of money, but each senior citizen will receive just 80,000 won ($87) per month, an amount that can hardly support in the basic necessities.
There are limitations to a state budget or a pension scheme to solve the problem. The best solution is to make it possible for senior citizens to support themselves.
In that way, people can start the second part of life and the country can have more labor at the same time.
In Japan, a system for lifetime employment was introduced. Under that system, the retirement age is raised, elderly workers receive reduced salaries or retired workers can find employment at other workplaces. These days, many elderly people are still very healthy and strong. They can work until they turn 70 without a problem.
Two years ago, the government drafted a measure to cope with the low birthrate and the increase in the ratio of elderly people in society.
But that measure also focused on the pension program; it was not about increasing job opportunities.
People must be able to find employment as long as they are healthy and capable.
The government must work to make that possible.
That is the government’s duty.