Income struggles compelling older South Koreans to stay employed

As South Korea’s elderly population surges, financial hardship is becoming a pressing issue, particularly among those aged 65 or older.
By: | September 29, 2023
Topics: News | South Korea

More than six in 10 elderly South Koreans are grappling with insufficient income, as the country experiences a record surge in the number of people aged 65 or older living alone.

According to Statistics Korea, 61.1% of South Koreans aged 65 or older in 2021 said their income was not enough, while only 7.9% reported having “more than enough” income. This financial challenge looms large as the country’s elderly population crossed the nine-million mark for the first time in 2022, with projections suggesting a rapid ascent in the years to come.

Currently representing 18.4% of the nation’s 51.5 million population, senior citizens are projected to make up 30.1% by 2035 and 46.4% by 2070.

Data from Statistics Korea also revealed the increasing number of retirees rejoining the workforce to avoid poverty, as South Korea had the highest elderly poverty rate among developed countries, reaching 40.4% in 2020.

South Korea’s progress in employing senior citizens is evident, with a 6.1 percentage point increase in their employment rate from 2012 to 2022, reaching 36.2%. This rate surpassed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) average of 15%, reported The Korea Times.

Notably, the data highlighted a link between employment status and income satisfaction. Unemployed seniors were more likely to perceive their earnings as insufficient, with 65% sharing this view, compared to 54.6% among the employed. Health satisfaction also correlated with employment status, with 37.5% of employed seniors rating their health as “good” in 2022, compared to 21.9% among the unemployed.

READ MORE: South Korea faces skill shortages amidst ageing workforce

The data also shed light on life expectancy among seniors in South Korea. The remaining life expectancy for individuals aged 65 was estimated at 19.3 years for men and 23.7 years for women, surpassing the OECD averages of 17.8 years for men and 21.2 years for women.