Workforce grays as older Koreans continue to work

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Workforce grays as older Koreans continue to work

Visitors look at job postings at a job center in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul, in November. [YONHAP]

Visitors look at job postings at a job center in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul, in November. [YONHAP]

 
Korea’s working population is getting older as the society ages and people at retirement age continue to seek employment opportunities.  
 
“I earn some 600,000 won ($540) to 700,000 won a month, and it is actually helpful,” said a 64-year professional caregiver who works about three hours a day. “My husband is still working as well, and I’m planning to continue to work until my health won't allow me.”  
 
The number of employed Koreans who are aged 60 or above now exceeds that of people in their 30s, according to Statistics Korea.  
 
Some 5.26 million Koreans aged 60 or above were employed as of March, up 8.4 percent on year. It’s first time that the number has exceeded 5 million since 1987, when the statistics agency started compiling the related data.  
 
Now people aged 60 or above are 19.5 percent of the entire number of employed people in Korea. This means one out of five employed people in Korea is aged 60 or older.  
 
The number of employed people who are in their 30s declined 3.1 percent to 5.24 million during the same period.  
 
This is the first time that the number of employed who are aged 60 or older has exceeded the number of people in their 30s.
 
Of all employed people in Korea, some 169,000 are people aged 15 to 19, and 3.65 million are people in their 20s.  
 
Roughly 6.29 million people in their 40s were employed as of March, and 6.32 million people in their 50s.
 
It is dramatic from 1980s and 1990s, when the Korean economy was growing at a rapid pace. Back then, the number of employed who were in their 30s was five to six times the number of people aged 60 or older working.  
 
The coronavirus pandemic was a big contributing factor. As companies scramble to reduce the number of new hires or even decide to cancel their plans to hire new employees, young Koreans in their 20s and 30s are having difficulty finding jobs.
 
The employment rate for old people has also been rising steadily.
 
The employment rate of Koreans aged 60 or older was 40.4 percent as of March in 2019, rose to 41.2 percent last year and reached 42.3 percent this year.  
 
“More aged people are likely to seek for jobs in the future as the life expectancy is expected to increase further,” said Kim So-young, an economics professor at Seoul National University. “But most of the positions that old people get from the government are low-pay temporary jobs.”  
 
BY CHO HYUN-SOOK   [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 
 
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