By Yi Whan-woo
The rate of economic participation among baby boomers is currently 73.8 percent, the highest since 2000, data showed Tuesday.
However, the data released by Statistics Korea raises concern that the percentage of the country's economically active population will drop sharply when the baby boomers, born between 1955 and 1963, reach the retirement age of 60.
The economic participation rate refers to the ratio of both employed and unemployed who can work and produce output among people aged 15 and older.
Korea's baby boombers constitute the bulk of the population in their 50s. The number of people in this age group reached 7.41 million in 2012, up from 4.54 million in 2002. They are estimated to account for 14 percent of Korea's total population.
The participation rate among people in their 50s in the economy has continued to grow over the years: 68.7 in 2000 percent, 70.1 percent in 2006, 72.7 percent in 2010 and 73.1 percent in 2011.
The participation rate is expected to fall dramatically starting from 2015, when the oldest of the baby boomer generation born in 1955 turn 60 and begin to retire, with younger baby boomers following soon after.
Market watchers said the government should enhance programs that will ensure that their retirement does not hurt the economy and its growth momentum in any significant way.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor currently runs a salary cap system that restricts the maximum amount of annual salary among high ranking officials in firms. In return, companies can defer the retirement of its employees, especially those in their 50s.
Meanwhile, the economic participation rate among 829,000 people in their 60s last year increased to 38.4 percent, the highest since 2007 when it stood at 38.6 percent.
The number of stock investors in the age group is also on the rise, up from 548,000 in 2004 to 926,000 in 2011. For people in their 50s, figures also climbed from 767,000 to 1.26 million in over the same period.
"They are obviously capable of producing economic output, and we should maximize their potential as active workers," a ministry official said.