The Ministry of Health and Welfare operates a care facility for pregnant women and new mothers in Yeouido, Seoul, in 2011, as part of the government’s effort to promote childbirth. (Yonhap)
SEJONG -- The average age of South Koreans reached 43.5 as of August, climbing by five years compared to a decade earlier in August 2011 when it stayed at 38.5, government data showed.
This is attributed to a surge in the portion of seniors, aged 65 or over, and a sharp drop in the percentage of children and babies, aged under 15.
After topping 40.0 in October 2014 for the first time since the nation started compiling the relevant figures, Koreans’ average age has continued to rise, according to the Ministry of Interior and Safety.
It took about three years for the age to rise by 1.5 years -- from 40.5 in December 2015 to 42 in October 2018, and to 43.5 in August 2021. Should the current growth pace remain, the figure is projected to reach 45 by mid-2024.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)
Further, the average age for Korean women is likely to reach 45 in the first half of 2022, given that the figure climbed by 0.3 in only seven months -- from 44.4 in January 2021 to 44.7 in August 2021.
Meanwhile, the average age by region is showing wide disparity among eight major cities and nine provinces, as many young people have rushed to metropolitan areas for study and jobs. Recent data shows there is an age gap between residents in traditional cities and newly built residential towns.
Sejong recorded 37.6 in the figure, which is the youngest among the 17 major regions and the only region staying under 40.
A dominant portion of households in the administrative city -- which launched in July -- are working at the government complex or state-funded agencies. Many others in their 20s and 30s are engaged in the retail sector.
On the back of an influx of young newlyweds over the past decade, Sejong is estimated to have posted the highest portion of kindergarteners and elementary or middle school students in the nation.
Sejong residents are younger by almost 10 years than residents in South Jeolla Province on average, as the latter posted an average age of 47.2 in August, which was the oldest in the 17 regions.
While the gap between the two regions is 9.6, the gap between female residents have already exceeded 10 years -- 38.2 for women in Sejong and 49.1 for women in South Jeolla Province.
A noteworthy point is the disparity between Seoul and Gyeonggi Province at 43.4 vs. 41.7. As many young Seoul citizens in their 20s and 30s have moved to neighboring Gyeonggi in the wake of skyrocketing apartment prices in the capital, there is a possibility that the gap could further widen in the coming years.
Meanwhile, the trend of Seoul retirees’ relocating to Gyeonggi Province is estimated to have somewhat offset the gap.
Gyeonggi was the second-youngest region in terms of resident age, alongside Gwangju, which also posted an age of 41.7 last month.
Among next on the list were Ulsan at 42.1, Daejeon at 42.3, and both Incheon and Jeju Province at 42.7 -- all posted lower than the nationwide average.
Next to the oldest South Jeolla Province, North Gyeongsang Province ranked second with 46.7, followed by Gangwon Province with 46.3. These three are agriculture and fisheries-oriented regions.
Comparisons of the percentage of older and younger people against the population as a whole reveal worrisome changes to the nation’s demographic structure.
Interior Ministry data showed that the percentage of Koreans aged between 0-14 stood at 12 percent as of August 2021 -- a sharp contrast to 15.6 percent a decade earlier.
In contrast, people aged 65 or over made up 16.9 percent of the total, up 5.8 percentage points from 11.1 percent posted 10 years earlier.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)