Male workers in their 60s outnumber newbies

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Male workers in their 60s outnumber newbies

Korean male workers in their 60s or older outnumbered those in their 20s last year, data showed yesterday, suggesting that the country’s labor market is getting older amid chronically low birth rates and a rapidly aging population.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, the number of male workers aged 60 or older came to about 1.8 million at the end of last year, up 6.3 percent from 1.69 million tallied a year earlier.

The figure exceeded the 1.72 million male workers in their 20s last year, which was down 0.6 percent from a year earlier.

This is the first time that employed people in their 60s or older outnumbered those in their 20s since related data started to be compiled in 1963.

The reversal is attributable partly to the overall demographic changes in Korea where low birth rates and an aging population are creating an older labor market, experts say.

Korea’s birthrate was 1.24 as of 2011, which is much lower than other major industrialized countries.

A presidential committee dealing with low birth and aging population problems estimated last week that the country’s birth rate rose to 1.3 in 2012 but it is still much lower than 2.1, a figure required to maintain the country’s population.

The number of people in their 20s made up 16.9 percent of the total population in 2002 but that ratio dropped to 13.6 percent last year.

The ratio of senior citizens rose from 11.9 percent to 16.5 percent over the same period.

The overall sluggish labor market also seems to be playing a part as it is taking a toll especially on younger generations. A growing number of younger people are leaving the job market to continue their education or to better prepare before job hunting.

Korea’s jobless rate stood at 2.9 percent in December but the rate among younger people aged 15 to 29 was 7.5 percent, the highest level since June when the rate rose to 7.7 percent.

Meanwhile, more senior citizens are forced to keep working to support their families and themselves due to toughened economic conditions.

“Changes in demographic structure are a main reason for the reversal in the work force between the young and old generations,” a statistics agency official said.

“A decline in employment rates among those in their 20s during the second half of last year also played a role.”

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