South Korea’s factories hiring older workers

With the departure of foreign labour, factories are increasingly turning to the elderly workforce to solve their staffing crunch.
By: | August 18, 2022

The number of job increases driven by people aged 60 and older has seen a 58% rise in July amid a near-record low 2.9% unemployment rate.

However, even that has not been enough to ease staff shortages across the industrial and farming sectors in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, setting up new price pressures with inflation already running at a 24-year high.

In South Korea, one of the world’s fastest ageing societies, 33.1% of people aged between 70 to 74 are still working, topping the OECD’s scale measuring the employment for the age group and far higher than the OECD average of 15.2%.

Central bank data shows over 230,000 of those aged 60 or over have found jobs at factories and construction sites since early 2020, while younger people have been leaving those sectors.

READ: More young South Koreans take up flexible jobs

While South Korea’s foreign worker contingent, at 848,000, is relatively small compared with other industrialised economies where migrants make an important contribution to the factory sector.

Since early 2020, the monthly inflow of new foreign workers is about 35% of what the country had in 2019, before the pandemic, government data showed, according to Reuters.