A national census shows that every city and province in South Korea became aging societies last year, signaling the urgent need to formulate measures to prepare for a rapidly aging population. Korea is seeing an unprecedented pace of aging. It is impossible to prevent a society from aging through artificial means, but it is essential to come up with effective countermeasures.
According to the 2010 national census released by Statistics Korea on May 30, South Korea’s population was tallied at 48.58 million in last year, up 1.3 million from five years ago. The population aged 65 or older accounted for more than 11 percent of the total population, or 5.42 million.
Of particular note is that Ulsan City, which had been the only region that had yet to become an aging society, has crossed the threshold with 7 percent of its population over the age of 65. Accordingly, all cities and provinces in Korea have become aging or aged societies, eleven years after the nation as a whole became an aging society in 2000.
An aging society refers to a society where the proportion of people over 65 accounts for more than 7 percent of the total population. In an aged society, more than 14 percent of the population is aged 65 or older. If the figure surpasses 20 percent, it is classified as a super-aged society. South Jeolla Province has already become a super-aged society, while North Gyeongsang Province, North Jeolla Province, South Chungcheong Province and Gangwon Province have shifted into aged societies.
If this trend continues, South Korea is expected to become an aged society in 2018 and a super-aged society in 2026. Korea will rank second in the world, following Japan, in terms of the proportion of elderly citizens to the total population. It will take only 18 years for Korea to enter an aged society phase after it became an aging society, and again, only eight years from then to transform into a super-aged society.
Korea is definitely one of the fastest aging societies in the world. This is because the nation’s birthrate continues its decline while the baby boomers born after the Korean War will be 65 or older in the coming years.
A rapidly aging population will put strain on the nation. At the national level, the cost of supporting senior citizens will be astronomical. The economy may lose steam due to the declining economically active population. To combat these developments, the government must devise well-thought-out measures. The best option is to increase the birthrate. Of course, it is also necessary to work out pragmatic policies aimed at promoting good health among elderly folks and stabilizing their livelihoods, creating an effective welfare system and alleviating welfare burdens for the younger generation. We’re looking forward to seeing the government implement swift measures to cope with a rapidly aging society.