As a source of income, health and self-respect, a job is the best welfare for the elderly, says Kang Hi-sung, chief of the job center at the Korea Senior Citizen Association.
The center, funded by government subsidies, finds employment for those over the age of 60 through a nationwide network. On average, the center helps about 20,000 seniors find jobs in the private sector.
“Finding employment is a source of pride. It is recognition of being healthy, and it gives them confidence as a part of society,” Kang said.
“(Having) a job also leads to physical activity, which is linked to health. Giving jobs to the elderly is helping (them) maintain their health.”
|Kang Hi-sung, chief of the job center at the Korea Senior Citizen Association. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)|
Although the pay for many of the jobs available to the elderly are at the minimum wage level, Kang said that a large proportion of senior job seekers are looking for jobs with short working hours even if the pay is low.
He added that seniors in employment tend to spend their wages for their families, which acts as a stimulus for the local economy.
However, Kang says that senior jobseekers are hindered by the lack of information and systematic training to help them adapt to new jobs.
According to Kang, many seniors often quit after failing to adapt to today’s workplace where everything, even to the way employees refer to each other, is different from what they were accustomed to.
“Other countries provide professional training even for jobs like hotel housekeeping, but here seniors are only given basic training,” Kang said.
“Then, seniors experience friction at work and these days the respect for the elders is not automatic, so they leave and employers develop negative opinions (about hiring senior citizens).”
In addition, the job market for those over the age of 60 is shrinking despite the rising demand as an increasing number of those in late middle age are applying for jobs that have traditionally been filled by seniors.
“A job fair for seniors also attracts a lot of people in their 50s. Who would you hire between a 65-year-old and a 50 year old? There need to be measures like tax incentives to encourage hiring of seniors,” Kang said. According to a recent survey conducted by the Korea Senior Citizen Association, more than 30 percent of those over the age of 65 want to find employment.
“The reason seniors want jobs is because they weren’t able to prepare for old age, because they don’t want to burden their children,” Kang said.
“Society needs to change. Seniors are fully capable of working, and (changing the perception that seniors are less capable) is something society as a whole must work on.”
By Choi He-suk and Lee Hyun-jeong