Working-age population projected to shrink in Japan and South Korea

An OECD report has calculated that by 2050, Japan’s working-age population would have declined to 61.8%.
By: | January 18, 2021

This figure was the lowest among the four OECD countries compared. The other OECD Asian country to be similarly affected by the decline of its working-age population is South Korea whose figure is estimated to be 80.4% – about on par with that of Italy (80.8%) and lower than Germany’s 85.1%.  

The report takes each country’s population between the ages of 20 and 64 in the year 2000 as a base and projecting that number to 2050, and the results were compiled by Statista data journalist Katharina Buchhoiz. For OECD as a whole, the figure was 111.0%.  

Japan’s working-age population has been declining since the 1990s, while Korea’s working-age population began its decline in 2019. 

South Korea’s statistics bureau just confirmed that the population of the country declined by 0.04% in 2020. 

For countries experiencing a decline of working-age population, issues like underfunded social systems, tight labour markets and an overstretched medical and care sector are common. 

To meet the challenges of a declining working-age population, researchers have suggested Japan to create a sustainable labour force. Such a strategy would include encouraging 1.63 million seniors, 1.02 million women and 81,000 foreign nationals to enter or re-enter the workforce.  

In addition, the country must ensure that new and existing workers have the necessary skills to thrive in a changing work environment. Technological advancements could create 133 million new roles worldwide, which would require that 54% of all employees receive reskilling or upskilling by 2022, according to the Future of Jobs Report. For such a massive undertaking, the government and businesses must partner together for solutions. 

READ: Japan urges businesses to promote teleworking

In Japan, 99% of employees work for small companies, which do not offer training as often as larger ones. Governments must thus strategically partner with businesses to create reskilling initiatives and support investments  in three main areas: people’s capabilities, institutions related to work, and high-growth sectors, said a World Economic Forum report.