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Export Industries Workers are Also Getting Aging

Posted January. 19, 2005 22:34,   


The 2,000 blue-collar workers at Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction in Changwon, Gyeongnam average 43 years old. The average age here was somewhat lowered after 1,300 senior workers voluntarily retired at the end of 2003.

Since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the company never hired a high-school graduate for a technical position.

A person from the company said worriedly, “It was hard to employ new field workers when the company is accepting applications for voluntary retirement. In the long-term, an older workforce could lead to lower productivity and other side effects.”

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on January 19 published a report titled “The Effects of Demographic Changes on Industries,” according to which, the average age of workers in steel, shipbuilding and automobile sectors, Korea’s core industries for export, is as high as 40, and other signs point to the “rapidly aging industrial workforce.”

As of 2003, the average age is 39.7 in the steel industry, 38.2 in the shipbuilding industry and 36.2 in the auto industry. The figures are 2.1~3.3 percent higher than in 1994, nine years ago.

For some service and high-tech manufacturing industries, the average increased by 2.4~3.8 over the same period.

The report pointed out that a continuing process of aging could put a heavier wage burden on businesses and downward pressure on productivity so that Korea’s industrial competitiveness and growth potential are undermined.

The report also mentioned that the aging is faster in industries with stronger labor unions, and that as the “holding on to one’s job” tactic gets serious, job creation for young people gets tougher.

Chief Researcher Lee Jeong-il at the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) gave his analysis, saying, “The aging of the industrial workforce is because companies became sort of slower as the growth potential of the corresponding industries has decreased. This phenomenon makes it harder to hire people, and thus the youth unemployment could deteriorate.”

Joong-Hyun Park sanjuck@donga.com