6 million Koreans living alone, an all-time record

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6 million Koreans living alone, an all-time record

A photo of a coffee shop in Seoul taken in 2017 that serves a single person. [YONHAP]

A photo of a coffee shop in Seoul taken in 2017 that serves a single person. [YONHAP]

Last year, the number of people living alone in Korea exceeded 6 million for the first time ever, with a sharp increase noted in the single senior citizen population.

According to Statistics Korea on Tuesday, the number of people living alone amounted to 6.04 million as of October last year. That’s a 4.3 percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, or 251,000 more.  
The number of households overall in the country grew by 1.9 percent.
Those living alone account for nearly 30 percent of all households, up 0.7 percentage points year-on-year to 29.9 percent, an all-time record.  
The latest study found that while more men than women that live alone had jobs, accounting for 56.7 percent at 2.08 million compared to their female counterpart at 1.59 million, the increase was sharper for women. 
The number of women who are living alone as of October last year grew 6.2 percent on year, or 93,000 more, whereas for men the increase was 2 percent, or 40,000 more. 
Job increases were particularly fast among the single elderly.
When compared to the previous year, the number of people aged between 50 and 64 living alone with jobs rose 7.6 percent, while the number of people 65 or older living alone with jobs surged 12.2 percent.
The rate is faster than the overall increase of 2.8 percent.  
In the 15 to 29 age group, the number with jobs living alone increased 2 percent, while the increase was 1.8 percent for the 30s age group. In the 40s age group, the total declined 1.7 percent.
Single households aged 50 and older with jobs are about 40 percent of the total.
While 27.6 percent of single households between 50 and 64 had jobs, up 1 percentage point compared to the previous year, and 11.6 percent of those aged 65 or older had jobs, up 0.8 percentage points, the number of single households employed in their 30s and 40s declined 0.4 percentage points and 1.1 percentage points, respectively.  
For those in their 20s, the percentage employed dropped 0.3 percentage points.
This may be due to the Moon Jae-in government’s policy of creating temporary jobs for older Koreans.
Last year, the government allocated 820 billion won ($678 million) for the creation of jobs for senior citizens. In the 60-or-older age group, 377,000 jobs were created, while in the 50s category 98,000 jobs were added. Jobs were lost in the 30s and 40s age groups.
“The aging population coupled with young people reluctant to get married have significantly increased the number of people that are living alone,” said Chung Dong-wook, head of the statistics agency’s employment statistics division.  
Educated people are more likely to live alone. Those with a college degree or higher accounted for 45.6 percent of the total, or 1.66 million, while those with only a high school degree accounted for 36.4 percent of the total, or 1.33 million.  
Single household totals for those with higher education rose the fastest, at 6.2 percent. This increase has helped raise the employment status as well as the average paycheck of people living alone.  
In October, people living alone made an average of 3.67 million, up 3.8 percent. Those making between 2 million to 3 million won a month were 36 percent of the total. Those making between 1 million to 2 million were 21.3 percent.
BY LEE HO-JEONG   [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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