Elderly predicted to surge by 2060

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Elderly predicted to surge by 2060

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South Korea is forecast to be the world’s second-oldest country in 2060, due to declining birth rates and higher life expectancies, a government report said Wednesday.

According to an analysis by Statistics Korea based on current demographic trends in Korea, the ratio of people in the country older than 64 is expected to rise to 40.1 percent in 2060, up from the current 13.1 percent of the total population.

The birth rate was cited as a major factor for Korea’s rapidly aging society.

According to the report, Korea’s “total fertility rate,” the average number of children a woman of child-bearing age is expected to have, fell to 1.23 between 2010 and 2014, down from 4.21 between 1970 and 1974. It is the fourth lowest in the world.

Child-bearing age was defined as between 15 and 49 years old.

The Korean fertility rate between 2010 and 2014 was lower than the average in Europe, 1.58, and North America at 1.94, it said.

In the meantime, Koreans live longer than Europeans or Americans on average. Average life expectancy in Korea rose from 62.7 in the early 1970s to 81.3 between 2010 and 2013, higher than the current 76.1 in Europe and 79.1 in North America.

The “economically active population,” those between the ages of 15 and 64, has also continuously dropped in recent years, according to the analysis.

Korea’s economically active population reached its peak in 2012, accounting for 73.1 percent of the total population, and over time it is expected to gradually drop.

The figure currently stands at 73 percent, and it is expected to plunge down to the 49.7 percentile by 2060, the report said.

As a result, an economically active person in Korea is expected to support an average of 1.01 elderly dependents older than 64 and younger than 15 in total, up from 0.37 now.

However, if North and South Korea reunify in the near future, a united Korea would have a slightly less aged society, the report said, thanks to a relatively higher birth rate and lower life expectancy in North Korea.

The latest total fertility rate for North Korea, from 2010 to 2015, stood at 2.0, higher than the South’s at 1.23. North Korean life expectancy during the same period was 69.9, lower than the South’s 81.3.

A united Korea is expected to have a total population of 79 million in 2030, the report stated, ranking it 21st in the world. In terms of global population, China currently sits on top, with about 1.42 billion people. However, in 2060, Beijing is anticipated to be overtaken by India, the analysis said, which is projected to have about 1.64 billion people by then.


BY KIM HEE-JIN [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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