Although a large number of people in their 40s and 50s wish to start their own business in new areas based on their experience and knowledge accumulated in their younger days, government policies aimed at supporting startups limit beneficiaries to younger people under 40s, discouraging those who are not eligible for the benefit due to age limits. The Dong-A Ilbo looked into the government’s startup support policy and found that people over 40s were not qualified to apply for various programs that amount to 40.8 percent of the total budget. A large number of central and provincial government venture support programs, including foundation funding, provision of business site, and tax benefits, limit program beneficiaries to those in their 20s and 30s.
According to data on national tax by the National Tax Service, 30.3 percent of new startups were founded by people in their 40s and 24.8 percent were by people in their 50s. The number of young people starting their own business is on the rise but falls short of that of people over 40s. The lack of support for middle-aged people is forcing them to open mom and pop stores such as chicken restaurants or coffee shops that have nothing to do with their previous careers. Jobless middle-aged people or retired baby boomers do not have many options but to open micro businesses only to end up facing severe competition in the neighborhood or even close their businesses.
It would be unfair to criticize government policies aimed at encouraging young people to start their own venture amid a persistently high youth unemployment rate. It is desirable for the government to help young people start their own business and gain a foothold in society when businesses are reducing the size of employment. But people over 40s should not be put on the back burner in the process. According to a survey of 2.7 million people who founded a startup in the U.S. between 2007 and 2014, their average age at the time of foundation was 41.9 and successful founders’ average age was 45. It suggests that rich experience and knowledge accumulated in one’s younger years serve as a foundation of building a successful business.
The government should expand its startup support program to people over 40s so that their rich knowledge and experience can be utilized in revitalizing our economy. There will be more quality jobs for young people if middle-aged people can make more successful businesses like the case of Seo Jung-jin, who founded Celltrion at the age of 45 and turned it into a world-class pharmaceutical company.