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Working Population Shortage Likely by 2020

Posted March. 01, 2005 22:49,   


A report stated that 48 million is the suitable population size for Korea as of 2005.

However, some voiced their concerns that even if the country maintains the suitable population size, its quality will be considerably compromised by 2020, with a rapidly increasing elderly population and insufficient working population.

On March 1, the Population Association of Korea released the “Estimation of Korea’s appropriate population,” a survey conducted since October last year on commission of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

According to the survey, the appropriate population growth in consideration of all aspects, including economy, welfare, and environment, is between -0.5 percent to 0.5 percent, while the appropriate population size is between 46 million and 51 million.

In other words, the suitable population size for Korea is +/- 2.5 million from the current population.

However, demographers warned, “There are too few women in their child bearing age even if the birth rate, which recorded the lowest figure of 1.19 as of 2003, increases as much as possible,” adding, “If the trends continues, Korea’s economic structure will collapse in a decade because of the increasing elderly population and insufficient working population.”

The Korea Statistical Office says that there are eight productive persons aged 15 to 64 support one citizen over the age of 65 in Korea.

But there will be only 1.4 working persons per one citizen over the age of 65 in 2050.

An official at the Population Association of Korea said, “The U.K. and France, countries with a low birth rate, were the most stable economically and socially when the ratio of senior citizens was 15 to 17 percent,” adding, “It is desirable for Korea to have such a population structure.”

It is expected that the country will see the ratio of senior citizens reach 15 to 17 percent in 2010 to 2020.

Kim Seung-kwon, head of the Department of Social Policy Research at Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, said, “As of now, there is no other option but to accept young immigrants,” adding, “Korea will be the world’s oldest country by 2050, unless there is an effective population policy.”

The Welfare Ministry announced, “The survey is basic data to draw up countermeasures for rapid aging and the drop in the birth rate,” adding, “A mutual understanding and concerted effort from society is needed to maintain an appropriate size of population, while securing a productive population.”

The association is planning to release “The appropriate population for the Korean Peninsula,” which will be a comprehensive report including the estimation of North Korea’s population research in late April.

TK Sohn sohn@donga.com