Korea is now one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world with the record low birth rate. If the country cannot overcome two most difficult social problems of low birth rate and aging population, it has no choice but to face a gloomy future with the continuous decrease in working age population and ensuing deep economic slumps.
Seoul, KOREA ¶ Jun 26, 2012 (Whowired) -- On June 23, the population of Korea officially marked 50 million to make the country to be the seventh member of the so-called “20-50 Club.” The term “20-50 Club” was coined by the local media to describe countries which meet the requirement of a population of more than 50 million as well as a per-capita income over US$20,000. In 1955, Korea’s population was 21.5 million and its income per head was a mere $65. Since then, Korea has grown into an economic powerhouse with a population of 50,062,000 and the GDP per person of $23,749.
However, there is the other side of the coin for Korea’s miraculous achievements over the past several decades; Korea is now one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world with the record low birth rate. If the country cannot overcome two most difficult social problems of low birth rate and aging population, it has no choice but to face a gloomy future with the continuous decrease in working age population and ensuing deep economic slumps.
In 1983, the number of babied born in Korea was 769,000. Then the number dwindled to 470,000 in 2010. The fertility rate per woman was also down to 1.23 from 2.06 during the same period. As the birth rate rapidly decreased in the country, it is projected that, after peaking in 2016, the working age population in Korea would continuously shrink from about 36 million in 2010 to about 29 million in 2040.
Another headache was Korea’s unprecedented accelerating pace to enter a hyper-aged society. As the life expectancy both for males and females has been increasing substantially and the birth rate is already one of the lowest in the world, the average age of the society is expected to jump from 38.1 years in 2010 to 53.4 years in 2040. The ratio of those 65 years old and over to every 100 working age people in the population was 6.1 in 1980. But it is projected to increase to 57.2 in 2040.
Demographers say that the government should encourage baby boomers in retirement age to get re-employed and also create the work environment for women to have a healthy balance between work and home. They also highlight that the labor market should be flexible with foreign workers.
But there’s one thing in common among population experts and ordinary citizens’ opinions. In the end, to increase the birth rate is the key to solve the problem. Otherwise, the future of Korean society surely would not be as dynamic as it has been for past decades.
Adrian Han (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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