August 28, 2020 13:03
The government wants to raise the age when pensioners become eligible for public benefits like free subway passes from the current 65 as the population ages.
Anyone over 65 is currently eligible for free subway rides and discounts on rail tickets and admissions to national and public museums since 1981. But at that time over-65s took up a mere four percent of the total population, and now they account for 16 percent.
According to Statistics Korea, the proportion of the elderly population will grow to more than 20 percent in 2025 and a whopping 47 percent by 2067.
In a meeting on Thursday, the government decided to begin discussions on how to improve the benefits system for the elderly. Participants said there has been a change in the public perception on what age is considered old due to the extended life expectancy and healthcare.
In a 2017 poll, 59.4 percent said that people are old when they are over 70. The government plans to launch a task force in the second half of this year to come up with a policy.
In a workshop in January last year, Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo stressed the need to begin a public debate on ways to raise the pensionable age from 65 to 70 on a step-by-step basis in preparation for a forthcoming super-aged society.
Some experts favor maintaining the current system because the over-65s typically have even less money than they used to even if they continue working.
Prof. Yu Jeong-whon of Ajou University said, "Let's face it, the operating costs of subways don't jump enormously just because more elderly people take it. Elderly people can improve their health and contribute to boosting consumption if they take subway to engage in more social activities, which benefits everyone."
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