Singles Outnumber 2-Person Households

  • By Shon Jin-seok, Yang Mo-deum

    September 08, 2016 13:10

    Some 5.2 million people lived alone last year, accounting for nearly one-third of all 19.11 million households, Statistics Korea said Wednesday. That was five times as many in 1990.

    The finding came from last year's census.

    Households with more than five members were common before 1975, but between 1980 and 2005 the most common household consisted of four people.

    Single households with 27.2 percent became the dominant profile for the first time in 2015, outnumbering two-person households (26.1 percent), three-person households (21.5 percent) and four-person households (18.8 percent).

    The biggest group of singles were in their 30s with 18.3 percent. Next came people over 70 with 17.5 percent and in their 20s with 17 percent. That is bringing changes to retail and other industries. Convenience stores benefited the most as lone individuals nipped around the corner to buy small portions of this and that.

    Their sales topped W9.1 trillion during the first half of this year, up 21.8 percent on-year (US$1=W1,092). Total annual sales are expected to exceed W20 trillion this year.

    They even eat smaller fruit, once thought to be unmarketable, because they have nobody to share them with. According to the Korea Rural Economic Institute said small apples are becoming increasingly popular.

    Home appliance manufacturers are also making products suitable for singles like small washing machines, electric rice cookers for one person, and compact refrigerators.

    The change in lifestyle naturally leads to traveling alone. The number of single travelers increased from 78,000 in 2013 to 206,000 in 2015, said a staffer at Korea's biggest travel operator Hana Tour. Some 110,000 people enjoyed traveling alone in the first half of this year, up about 31 percent on-year.

    Meanwhile, the elderly were just one-seventh of the child population 30 years ago, but now the ratio is nearly 1:1. There were 6.91 million children in Korea last year, down 5.18 million from 1985. In contrast, the number of the elderly was 6.57 million, up 4.82 million from three decades ago.

    Korea's population stood at 51.07 million, with 25.61 million males and 25.46 million females. Population density was 509 people within a 1 sq. km radius, the third densest among countries with populations over 10 million after Bangladesh and Taiwan.

    Despite the relocation of government bodies to the provinces, the Seoul metropolitan area was still the most densely populated part of the country and home to 49.5 percent of Korea's total population.

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