Korea is set to become the nation with the greatest proportion of elderly people in the world in 2050, a report by the Korea Institute of Finance predicted Monday. It said Koreans' average life expectancy will hit 83.5 years in 2050 thanks to better health and nutrition as a result of increased income, and people over 65 will make up 38.2 percent of the population, more than in any other country.
The institute predicted that it will take Korea 26 years to turn from an "aging" society, where more than 7 percent of the population are over 65, into a "super-aging" society with over 20 percent. That is much faster than advanced countries. France would by the same reckoning take 154 years, the U.S. 94, Germany 77 and Japan 36.
Korea's elder-child ratio -- the proportion of over-65s to under-14s -- is expected to reach 125.9 in 2020, outdistancing the U.S., the U.K. and France, and by 2050 leave even Japan and Germany behind.
The country's old-age dependency ratio -- the proportion of over-65s to people between 20 and 64 -- will hit 91.4 percent in 2050, placing Korea third in the OECD after Italy (98.5 percent) and Japan (94.9 percent).
But Korea's social safety net for the elderly is insufficient to deal with the speed at which the country is aging, and retired workers will have to spend more than their pension income if they survive average life expectancy, the institute predicted. In 2009, the ratio of retirees' pension income to total income was 42.1 percent, about 17 percent lower than the OECD average.
An aging population threatens Korea's growth potential, the report added. If the trend persists, the country's potential growth rate will plummet from 4.21 percent in the 2010s to 0.74 percent in the 2040s.