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Korean workers’ average age rises past 44

The average age of the employed in South Korea surpassed 44, marking a new high, a state-run statistics agency said Friday.

According to Statistics Korea’s data on the country’s economically active population, the average age of people working under various labor contracts reached 44.2 in 2014, or about 0.2 years older than the figure in 2013.

The average age exceeded 40 in 1999 and has been increasing ever since. In 2004, it was 41.1, then 42 in 2006 and 43.1 in 2010. 

This was a stark contrast to 36.3 in 1974. In 1980, almost 40 percent of workers were aged over 40, but that proportion jumped to 63 percent in 2014.

An increasing number of senior citizens are landing jobs, while the younger generation is struggling to find jobs in the market.

About 4 million people aged between 55 and 64 were employed last year, up 284,000 from 2013, compared to 3.62 million 20-somethings with employment, up 56,000 from 2013.

“Those born between 1955 and 1963, known as the baby boomers, are still actively working, which has contributed to increasing workers’ average age in the market,” the statistics bureau said in a report.

“More than 2 million workers are over 65 years old. But in 2000, there used to be less than a million people.”

These baby boomers were not yet prepared to retire as they felt insecure about their financial status, Lee Si-kyun, director at the Korea Labor Institute, told a local media outlet.

The real problem might occur when they retire because there will be a huge vacuum in the employment market.

Also, the economy will suffer a manpower shortage due to the aging society fueled by a low birthrate.

“Then the country’s economic growth cannot be guaranteed,” he said.

By Bae Ji-sook (