By Lee Hyo-sik
Korean families spent a greater portion of household expenditure on education last year due to rising school tuition fees and private tutoring costs. State-run healthcare insurance premiums also increased over 10 percent from the previous year, putting a heavier financial burden on households.
According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) Thursday, families spent 12 percent of their entire expenditures on education-related items and services in 2007, up from 11.8 percent a year earlier. It is the highest since the statistical office began compiling data in 1984.
Urban households headed by salaried workers earned a monthly average of 3.67 million won, up from 3.44 million in 2006. They spent an average of 2.84 million won per month, up 5.8 percent.
Families spent 25.1 percent of monthly expenditures on food in 2007, down from 25.7 percent a year ago. Spending on eating-out inched down from a year ago, accounting for 11.8 percent of total household consumption.
The statistical office said the country's population stood at 48.46 million as of July last year, up 0.33 percent from a year earlier. The birthrate, or the average number of babies expected per woman aged 15 to 49, increased to 1.26 last year from 1.13 in 2006, while life expectancy rose to 79.2 years from 78.6 years.
The number of Koreans aged over 65 totaled 4.18 million in 2007, accounting for 9.9 percent of the total population, up from 9.5 percent the previous year.
The number of elderly workers aged over 55 totaled 4.23 million, up from 4 million a year earlier. They accounted for 18 percent of the country's workforce, up from 17.4 percent, indicating many senior citizens work as inadequate retirement plans and a lack of social safety measures push them to expand their income.
As people live longer and rely more on the state-run health insurance system, insurance subscribers paid an average of 397,000 won in premiums last year, up 11.2 percent from a year ago.
Eighty-two high school students out of every 100 went on to university in 2007, while the number of students per teacher at elementary and second schools decreased, reflecting a drop in the number of students.
The country's jobless rate fell to 3.2 percent last year from 3.5 percent the previous year, while the number of employed rose 1.2 percent to 23.43 million.
Cancer was the leading killer of Koreans in 2006, killing 134.8 people per 100,000, up from 110.1 10 years ago. Among cancer, the number of deaths from cerebrovascular illness was 61.4 per 100,000 people, with 41.5 deaths linked to cardiovascular disease and 23.7 deaths to diabetes.