September 22, 2016 08:26
The latest census published by Statistics Korea early this month shows a rapidly aging society.
Senior citizens accounted for 13.2 percent of the population last year, which places Korea on the doorstep of becoming an aged society where they make up 14 to 20 percent.
In Japan, senior citizens already account for 26.3 percent of the population, in Italy for 22.4 percent, in Germany for 21.2 percent and in the U.S. for 14.8 percent.
The surging elderly population has led to a rapidly increasing market for products and services for this age group.
There are more than 1,300 nursing homes across the country, with booming markets for portable toilets, beds tailored to reduce bed sores and other products aimed at the elderly.
Hyundai Research Institute projects the scale of the markets to grow from W22 trillion in 2010 to W84 trillion in 2018 (US$1=W1,118).
Kim Hyung-joo at LG Economic Research Institute said prospects are rosy for services focusing on elderly people who live alone, like cleaning or nursing.
The low birthrate and aging society are quickly raising the median age, which is now for the first time over 40 at 41.2. In Japan and Germany the median age is 45.6 and in Italy 44.8, but in the U.S. it is 37.8, in China 36.8, and in India a youthful 27.3.
Experts point out that the government needs to revamp policies in order to accommodate the changing population structure.
"Most of the government's welfare policies were designed around the four-person household," said Ahn Sang-hoon at Seoul National University. "It urgently needs to devise new policies in line with the aging society and changing population structure."
Meanwhile, the population of foreigners is rising quickly. As of 2015, 1.36 million foreigners lived in Korea, accounting for 2.7 percent of the population.
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