October 01, 2021 12:07
Korea is on track to become the country with the oldest population in the world in a little over two decades. Forecasters warn that if Korea's chronically low birthrate persists, it will surpass Japan in 2045 in terms of the proportion of the population aged 65 or more. More than half of Korea's population is expected to be over 60 by 2056.
The grim forecast is based on figures from Statistics Korea and other data and was revealed at a seminar in Seoul on Thursday.
The proportion of Korea's population aged 65 or over stood at 15.7 percent in 2020, compared to 28.9 percent for Japan. But the figure for Korea is forecast to rise sharply to 37 percent in 2045, surpassing Japan (36.7 percent).
Accordingly, Korea's population is expected to age twice as fast as Japan's. It will take an estimated 39 years for Japan's proportion of older people to rise from 15.7 percent in 1997 to 33.9 percent in 2036, compared to just 20 years for Korea's.
The median age in Korea and Japan is expected to be the same at the age of 54 in 2039. By 2056, however, Korea's median age is expected to rise to 60.1, compared to 55.3 in Japan. Korea's median age rose from 21.8 years in 1980 to 43.7 in 2020.
The phenomenon can be mainly attributed to Korea's chronically low birthrate. The country's total fertility rate, which gauges the average number of babies a woman gives birth to, stood at 0.84 last year, which is the lowest among OECD member countries.
But most demographers say there are limits on what the government can do to solve the low birthrate, as drastic measures would interfere with the private lives of individual citizens, especially when it comes to having babies.
Additionally, Korea's low birthrate cannot be solved as long as young people continue to feel anxious about soaring housing prices and job stability.
A recent survey showed that 35.4 percent of young Koreans felt the next generation will be less fortunate than them. Also, 24.3 percent of young Koreans said they do not want to have babies due to the financial burden of raising them.
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