Elderly Outnumber 20-Somethings in Korea's Workforce

      June 05, 2023 08:42

      For the first time ever senior citizens outnumber 20-somethings in Korea's workforce after decades of low birthrates and an aging society.
      According to Statistics Korea, 3.38 million people over 60 were employed in the fourth quarter of last year, up 284,000 from the same period of 2021. But only 3.22 million Koreans in their 20s were employed, down by 36,000 over the same period.
      It was the first time in seven quarters that the number of young workers declined.
      That brought the proportion of over-60s in Korea's workforce to 16.5 percent, compared to 15.8 percent for people in their 20s. Including unpaid family members working in the family business, people in their 60s overtook workers in their 20s in 2014.
      The main reason is that there are simply more older people than young ones now. Senior citizens account for a quarter of Korea's population, while people in their 20s account for just 12 to 13 percent. 
      Jobseekers look at a bulletin board at a job fair in Seoul on June 1. /Newsis
      But experts said other factors are at play as well. Cha Jin-suk at Statistics Korea said, "The number of jobs in the wholesale and retail sectors for people in their 20s declined significantly in the fourth quarter and we are looking for the reason." 
      And Lee Chul-hee at Seoul National University said, "Companies seem to shun young workers because they are often obliged to guarantee long-term permanent positions, while hiring older people gives them more flexibility." 
      The biggest increase in elderly workers was in the health and social welfare sector with 78,000, usually as caregivers.
      Lee Byoung-hoon at Chungang University said, "While it's mostly the government's job to help senior citizens find new jobs to live a healthy later life, businesses and unions in the private sector should share jobs with young jobseekers. At the same time young people should not give up looking for jobs so easily if they fail just a few interviews but seek out internships and even low-paying positions to build up their resumes."  
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