Employment picture for older Koreans is mixed

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Employment picture for older Koreans is mixed

An elderly job applicant looks at job postings at the Mapo District Office in December last year. [YONHAP]

An elderly job applicant looks at job postings at the Mapo District Office in December last year. [YONHAP]

 
Koreans 65 and above did surprisingly well during the pandemic in terms of employment, the age group being the only cohort in which employment increased in May. But when the definition of old is expanded to include those above 55, employment has dropped.  
 
According to Statistics Korea on Tuesday, the employment rate in the 55-to-79 age group in May was 55.3 percent, down 0.6 percentage points on year. It is the sharpest drop since 2009, when the employment rate in this age group in May that year fell 1 percentage point on year.  
 
The biggest job losses for this group were in wholesale, retail, restaurants and lodging, which are areas that have been most vulnerable to the pandemic.
 
In May, 1.51 million were working in this industry, a 1.2 percent drop. Wholesale, retail, restaurant and lodging businesses employ 19.2 percent of the total.
 
Public services employ 37.1 percent of all people in this age group. Employment in public services for people 55 to 79 increased 2.93 percent to 2.93 million.
 
“While those aged 60 years old or older saw an increase in the number of people hired as well as in the employment rate, those in their 50s saw the employment rate shrink, resulting in a lowering of the overall employment rate [for the elderly],” said Chung Dong-wook, head of the Statistics Korea’s employment data.  
 
The employment rate of those aged between 55 and 64 was 66.9 percent, a 1 percentage-point drop, whereas for those aged between 65 and 79, the employment rate was 40.4 percent, a 0.3 percentage-point increase.  
 
The aging population has been one of the biggest challenges faced by Korea .  
 
One-third of the population aged 15 and above and economically active is considered elderly. There are nearly 14.3 million people aged between 55 and 79, 32 percent of all Koreans.  
 
The 55-year-old or older population is up 3.1 percent on year. As of May, 7.9 million people in this group were employed, up 2 percent on year.
 
A recent report by Statistics Korea found that the lack of income was driving older Koreans to find jobs.  
 
Only 47.1 percent of the elderly receive a pension. Although this is a 1.2 percentage-point increase on year, it indicates that the majority are compelled to work to sustain themselves.  
 
Monthly pensions average 630,000 won ($526). Though this is 20,000 won more than a year ago, it falls far short of the minimum 1.5 million won a month recommended by the National Pension Research Institute.  
 
Of those receiving pensions, 40.6 percent receive a monthly pension between 250,000 won and 500,000 won, while those receiving 100,000 to 250,000 won a month are 23 percent of the total. Those receiving 500,000 won and 1 million won were 21.5 percent, while only 9.6 percent received 1.5 million won or more.  
 
Of those with pensions, 67.4 percent said they want to work. Of these, 58.8 percent want to cover living expenses, while 33.8 percent said they just want to work.  
 
BY LEE HO-JEONG   [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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