Korean population hits 50 million Saturday evening
The Korean population is expected to hit 50 million people Saturday evening, just 29 years after it reached 40 million, according to estimates by Statistics Korea.
Under a timing based on calculations that factor in birth and death rates and immigration, the population will reach the milestone at 6:36 p.m. This means that about 0.71 percent of humanity will be crammed in a land slightly larger than the U.S. state of Indiana, census officials said.
However, the high population density masks the concerns of a country aging in dog years. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) recently published a study that argued Korea has the fastest aging population on the planet and its working-age population will contract beginning in 2016.
This was hardly music to the ears of Korean policymakers, who continue to express concerns about the increasingly top-heavy population structure and the possibility the factor proves to be a growth buster.
It took 16 years for the Korean population to reach 40 million after it hit 30 million in 1967. The road toward 50 million was much longer and Statistics Korea officials doubt the country will ever have 60 million people.
According to the projections by the national statistics agency, the country’s population will peak at 52.16 million in 2030 before declining. The number of Koreans will sink back to 40-something million in 2045 and then closer to 30 million in 2091.
The working age population, referring to people between 15 and 64, will decrease by 7 million over the next three decades, coupled by a visible rise in the number of over-65 Koreans, with improvement in medicine and health awareness extending life expectancies.
The global population will be hitting 7.05 billion on Saturday from 4.69 billion in 1983. About 51 Koreans are born every hour while 31 of them die in the same 60 minutes, Statistics Korea said.
``The working-age population will peak in 2016, so it’s time that Korea follows the path of Europe and make real discussions about policies for `active aging,’ based on expanding the concept of the working age population and improving the labor participation of women and old people,’’ said Suh Woon-ju, an official from Statistics Korea’s social statistics bureau.
``The number of Koreans over 65 will increase from 5.45 million in 2010 to 11 million in 2040, with the working-age population dropping by about 20 percent during the same period. This will represent the world’s third-sharpest decline within the timeframe behind Japan and Germany.’’
Korea’s total fertility rate, or the average number of children women have during their childbearing years, is expected to measure at 1.23 from 2010 through 2015, Suh said, continuing to represent one of the lowest in the world. The figure for the U.S. during the period is expected to be 2.08, 1.46 for Germany and 1.42 for Japan. Korea’s fertility rate between 1980 and 1985 was 2.30.
To Koreans, the quintessential image of a family had long been the family of four. However, official data shows that ``micro’’ families, including people living alone, childless couples and single-parent families with one child, now account for around half of the country’s households.
If trends over the past 15 years continue, a sizable chunk of Korean adults in the future will not be married and likely have fewer children, an alarming thought for a country that is aging quicker than just about any other developed nation.
Over the past two decades, marriage rates have declined, while divorce rates have increased. And among the factors influencing family life, perhaps the most significant is economic.
The country already appears to be struggling to provide the resources to care for people after retirement. Official figures show that economic activity among people in their 50s and 60s are nearing all-time highs as older workers desperately cling to their office desks as they don’t have enough money saved up to retire.
Korea tops all the developed Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in poverty among elderly citizens, which marked 45.1 percent in 2010, more than triple the OECD average of 13.3 percent and roughly twice the 20-something percent rates of Japan and the U.S.