Pursuing meaningful life after retirement

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Pursuing meaningful life after retirement

Korea is the fastest aging country among the OECD member countries, and the most important issue to the 7 million baby boomers is jobs. What the young-old do for twenty years from the average retirement age of 53 to full retirement age of 72 is a crucial problem for individuals and the society.

Upon retirement, baby boomers focus on profit-making activities, starting up their own businesses, getting employed or working as a freelancer. But the success rate for new business is very low, and finding a new career is not easy. Even when they find a job, the income and quality of work is poor compared to their initial career. Here, I would like to recommend “social economic activities” as a new career in the latter half of the life. Social economy is the activities that put human values over profit maximization, notably in forms of cooperatives, social enterprises and village companies. They also contribute to resolving social issues such as unemployment.

According to the Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency, there are 1,506 social companies in Korea as of December 2015, expanding to various fields such as culture, arts, education and environment. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the role of social economy is highlighted globally as a reaction to the market-driven neoliberalism. In the developed European nations such as Sweden, social economy makes up 10 percent of GDP and 6.5 percent of employment. However, Korea’s social economy is less than 1 percent of GDP. It is about time we establish a talented workforce to develop social economy.

While social economy is an area with great potential for the baby boomer generation, there are also challenges. First, competition over jobs with the young people should be minimized. At social companies struggling to find workers with experiences, baby boomers can play the role of sharing experiences and know-how from decades of career. Second, a hands-on experience-oriented curriculum needs to be introduced. Similar to last year’s movie “The Intern” starring Robert De Niro, it is noteworthy that some Korean social enterprises hired retirees through education programs and senior internships.

In order to make a career transition, baby boomers should understand what values they want to pursue through volunteering and learn about social economy. I hope that baby boomers’ social economy participation becomes a topic of social discussion as it is not only for securing jobs but for pursuing harmonious and meaningful life after retirement.

by Kim Man-hee, Chief director of Encore Bravono Cooperative

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