By 2050, 40% of senior citizens will be working

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By 2050, 40% of senior citizens will be working

Gong, 82, lives alone in Busan and directs traffic 12 days a month for three hours a day in front of a nearby elementary school. She started the job two years ago and hasn’t missed a day except for her winter break.

She gets paid 200,000 won ($184) per month for her work. It may not be enough for living, but she said she is lucky to have a job. Local senior centers have been flooded with applicants looking for work.

“When you look around, there are so many old people looking for jobs,” she said.

The number of working senior citizens in Korea will steadily continue to increase, according to a report by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) released Tuesday.

It estimated that about 40.8 percent of people 65 and older will be working in 2050 as the number rises from 33.1 percent recorded in 2010, the most recent data from the institute. The report projected that 7.34 million people over 65 will be working in 2050, about four times the 1.81 million senior citizens who were employed in 2010.

Part of reason for the increase is longer life expectancy. According to Statistics Korea, the average life expectancy is expected to be 82.5 years in 2020, up from 77.2 years in 2002.

The elderly poverty rate of 47.2 percent in 2010, the highest among members of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has left senior citizens with little choice but to get another job after retiring.

However, working conditions for the elderly are poor. According to the OECD, in 2012, 60.6 percent of working people over 65 were non-salaried.

Their job options are also limited. According to OECD statistics, 42.6 percent of seniors worked in agriculture, forestry or fisheries and another 21 percent were unskilled workers. Only 3 percent were office workers or worked within their profession.

Experts say that the working environment for senior citizens should change in order to make the most of their experience and knowledge.

“There should be more job openings for the elderly so that they can have flexible part-time work,” said Kang Eun-na, a researcher at KIHASA. “The occupations available to them need to be diversified so that employers can make use of their professions, because many of them are stuck in jobs as cleaning or security workers.”

BY JUNG JONG-HOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]



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