People in their 50s now make up the biggest proportion of Korea's workforce, outnumbering those in their 40s for the first time last year.According to Statistics Korea, 50-somethings accounted for 6.35 million jobs or 24 percent of the country's total, followed by 40-somethings with 23.8 percent and those in their 30s with 20 percent.That is a substantial increase from 5.15 million in 2016, when 40- and 30-something still made up the backbone of the workforce with 6.14 million and 5.33 million jobs. That means the average age of Korean workers rose from 44.5 in 2016 to 46.8 last year.People in their 40s and 50s tend to have more stable jobs than other age groups. Some 80.2 percent of people in their 40s and 80.1 percent of those in their 50s said they are doing the same job they did a year ago, compared to 59.3 percent of people in their 20s and 76.3 percent of those in their 30s.Fifty-somethings also earn the highest incomes. The average annual income of Korean households led by a breadwinner in his or her 50s stood at W80.9 million last year, compared to W78.7 million among 40-somethings and W69.3 million among 30-somethings (US$1=W1,313)."There are also many jobs suitable for individuals in their 50s in fields such as manufacturing, construction, healthcare, welfare, and retail, where there is high demand for labor."
The rapid aging of Korea's workforce has resulted in a more dramatic gap in opportunities. Jobs increased 3.4 percent or 870,000 last year, but only a fraction were for young people.Some 50.6 percent of the new jobs were taken by senior citizens and 29.9 percent by people in their 50s, while jobs for people in their 20s grew by only 10,000 to account for one percent of the increase.The aging society played a big part. More elderly people mean there is greater demand for care jobs, which are usually taken by older women. "There was a clear increase in the number of health and welfare jobs for those over 60," a Statistics Korea spokesman said.Many senior citizens are also forced to return to work because they cannot make ends meet in retirement. The number of self-employed elderly people increased 9.4 percent last year to 1.46 million, the biggest rate of increase among all age groups.Ji Eun-chung at the Korea Employment Information Service said, "Elderly people are being pushed into non-salaried work like opening their own small business as they find it difficult to get hired again by a company but need to work to make ends meet."