Bracing for a fast-aging society
We soon will be living in an aging society with both rural and urban areas brimming with senior members. The statistics office presumes the ratio of Koreans aged 65 and over would shoot up to 32.4 percent of the total population by 2040 from current 13.1 percent. Extremely aged society with the ratio of elderly members taking up more than a third of the population will soon arrive.
Surge of aging population translates into soaring economic and social cost. A hundred people aged between 15 and 64 eligible to work this year has to support 15 elderly people compared with five in 1970 with the burden tripling over the last 45 years. In 2040, the number would surge to 57. The younger generation would have to support their older counterpart throughout their lives. The poverty rate among the elderly that was 52.3 percent in 2006 reached 62.5 percent last year. Older people are taking their own lives and committing crimes because of their miserable state. The country may lose its farming foundation when elderly citizens that almost completely occupy the rural areas perish.
Without pre-emptive measures, youthful life and vivacity would soon dry out across the nation. The economy would become depressed, generating various social problems. The government and civilian society must work together to combat the inevitable phenomenon and challenges ahead. The government must map and act out long-term welfare plan for the elderly.
The best way to alleviate the shock from aging society would be increasing job opportunities and re-training programs for the retired age. The burden would be lessened for the younger population struggling with dearth of jobs and affordable homes and financial squeeze if elderly citizens can go on supporting themselves after retirement.
We must come up with networking formula to help the elderly continue contributing their expertise through business cooperatives or small enterprises. The civilian society also must be willing to incorporate the elderly members. The elderly must be regarded as active social members rather than supporting targets. We all must join forces to avert generational conflict in rapid aging society.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 9, Page 34
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