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S. Korea seeks to tackle demographic cliff amid low birthrate, rapid aging

This file photo, taken Sept. 19, 2018, shows senior jobseekers looking at postings at a job fair in the southeastern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)
This file photo, taken Sept. 19, 2018, shows senior jobseekers looking at postings at a job fair in the southeastern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)
South Korea said Wednesday it plans to launch a task force on population policy next month in an effort to preemptively tackle a demographic cliff amid the country's chronic low birthrate and rapid aging.

The third pan-governmental task force will set sail in February to deal with major demographic risks, including a fall in the population and preparation for a super-aged society, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Last year, the number of deaths surpassed that of newborns for the first time in the country in what's called a "dead cross" phenomenon. That means the country's population will naturally decline.

The country's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- hit a new record low of 0.92 in 2019, marking the second straight year for the rate to drop below 1.

A fall in the fertility rate is feared to accelerate the country's so-called demographic cliff: a major drop in the working population amid the low birthrate.

The country is also expected to cross the threshold of a super-aged society in 2025, in which the proportion of those aged 65 or older will hit 20 percent of the total population. South Korea became an aged society in 2017.

In order to ease the economic and social fallouts from the demographic cliff, the government plans to explore ways to help more women remain in the workforce.

It will also make efforts to help baby boomers, born between 1955-1963, establish businesses and develop after-retirement careers.

On the issue of extending the retirement age currently set at 60, First Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom said the matter needs a social consensus.

"The government will explore ways to help the elderly be reemployed after retirement," Kim said at a press briefing.

The task force will also consider developing a new type of visa to attract foreigners and enhancing the state pension fund and health care insurance schemes.

To resolve the growing social and economic gaps between the greater Seoul area and other regions, the country plans to provide incentives to people and firms who will move outside the Seoul metropolitan area.

Last year, the number of people living in the greater capital area surpassed that of people in other regions for the first time. The broader capital area houses more than 26 million people.

The task force will begin unveiling detailed policy plans in the second quarter. (Yonhap)
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