Average working age highest in shipbuilding sector
Published : 2013-08-14 21:00
Updated : 2013-08-14 21:00
On top of conventional obstacles such as economic stagnation and weak demand, the nation’s manufacturing industry is faced with another challenge: its aging labor force.
Statistics Korea said Monday that the economically active population as of the end of June was 26.29 million. Of them, 9.36 million, or 35.6 percent, were aged 50 or older.
Also, the average age of workers involved in manufacturing businesses was 40.4, according to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade earlier this year.
One of the sectors most seriously affected by the aging labor force was the shipbuilding business, in which the average age of production workers has been on a steady rise, from 40.3 in 2002 to 43.3 last year.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering topped the list with 45.8, closely followed by Hyundai Heavy Industries with 45.7.
In the long term, this aging phenomenon could become a major stumbling block for the manufacturing industry, according to Ahn Hyun-ho, vice president of the Korea International Trade Association.
“It is no coincidence that Korea outpaced Japan in the shipbuilding sector just when the latter started to step into an aging society,” he said earlier this year.
“Our shipbuilders, too, should be cautious of the aging labor forces and set up measures to minimize the consequent side effects.”
The increasing proportion of older workers is a considerable burden on the companies, both in terms of labor management and salary payment.
“Long-term employees are, of course, highly skilled at their functions but the growth of such labor efficiency is usually not as high as the rate of their salary increase,” said an official of a major heavy industry company.
“The ideal solution would be to recruit young employees, but considering the struggling reality of the shipbuilding industry, the only alternative is to expand outside orders.”
Some, however, argue that the aging phenomenon should no longer be seen as a negative factor.
“It is true that the average working age has risen visibly over the years, but the change is taking place at a reasonable speed,” said an official of DSME.
Considering that the average life expectancy is set to grow, workers in their 40s should no longer be regarded as senior as they were 10 years ago, he added.
“Also, the shipbuilding industry requires a relatively high number of skilled welders and other yard workers, so the current age average is not a problem at all.”