Korea is graying rapidly with 15.7 percent of its 52 million population aged 65 or over, and many have to find jobs after retirement to make ends meet.

According to a study of some 10,000 people over 65 by the Ministry of Health and Welfare released early this week, 36.9 percent were economically active last year, up from 30 percent in 2008.

Some 73.9 percent said they work to make ends meet.

Their incomes increased apace, more than doubling from W7 million a year in 2008 to W15.58 million in 2020 (US$1=W1,115). Only 27.5 percent of the money came from state pension and other welfare payments, which is much lower than the average of 57.1 percent in the OECD, where pensions are usually more generous. In Germany the figure is 70.6 percent, in Japan 49.2 percent, and in the U.S. 41.4 percent.






An elderly man looks at a job bulletin board in an employment office in Seoul on March 17.

Senior citizens are getting used to digital devices, with 56.4 percent saying they use smartphones, up from just 0.4 percent in 2011, and 40.8 percent use social media.

More senior citizens feel they are healthy, rising from 24.4 percent in 2008 to 49.3 percent in 2020. Some 37.7 percent said hobbies and other leisure activities are the most important part of their lives, which is higher than economic activity (25.4 percent) or socializing (19.3 percent).

The proportion of senior singles rose from 66.8 percent to 78.2 percent over the same period, while the proportion who live with their children continued to decline from 27.6 percent to 20.1 percent. The proportion who want to live with their children also declined from 32.5 percent to 12.8 percent.

Asked what a good death means to them, 90.6 percent said passing away without burdening their family or friends, while 86.5 percent said they are opposed to prolonging their life artificially.

Lee Yoon-kyung at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said, “Senior citizens are becoming increasingly independent and active when it comes to economic affairs, their health matters and family relations, but we need to bolster state care services for senior citizens aged 75 or more.”

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