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(LEAD) S. Korea's elderly population ratio hits record high in 2015: data

All News 17:18 September 29, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details on centenarians in last four paras)

SEJONG, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- The ratio of senior citizens aged 65 and over in South Korea rose to an all-time high in 2015, underscoring the trend that the country's population is aging at a fast pace, government data showed Thursday.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, 6.57 million, or 13.2 percent of the country's population of 49.7 million, excluding foreigners, is aged 65 or older, which is far higher than the 11 percent tallied in 2010.

The ratio nearly quadrupled over the past half-century from 3.7 percent in 1960 when related data started to be compiled.

The figures come amid growing fears that South Korea is fast becoming an "aged society," in which more than 14 percent of the population is 65 or older. The country became an "aging society" in 2000, when the ratio topped 7 percent.

(LEAD) S. Korea's elderly population ratio hits record high in 2015: data - 1

Experts worry that the aging population, coupled with the low birthrate, poses a serious threat to the nation's economy as it could hurt growth potential and lead to fewer working people and increased spending on health and welfare.

The agency said that an average of 5.5 working-age people are supporting the livelihood of one senior citizen this year, compared to 14.9 in 1960, indicating that younger people increasingly have had a greater burden in supporting the lives of senior citizens.

The percentage of seniors to children aged between 0 and 14 reached 95.1 last year, shooting up 10-fold from 9.2 in 1960.

Against this backdrop, South Korean seniors think children are less responsible for supporting their parents, with society more obliged to take on the burden, according to a separate survey by the statistics office.

Some 34.1 percent answered that their family has to support their elderly parents in 2014, down sharply from 67.3 percent tallied in 2006, while 23.8 percent think they will support the livelihood on their own, up from 13.7 percent tallied eight years ago.

At the same time, seniors want to remain employed to earn bread.

Of those aged 65 and older, the employment rate stood at 30.6 percent last year, compared to the entire employment rate standing at 60.3 percent.

In particular, the rate among people aged 60-64 came to 59.4 percent, which exceeded the 57.9 percent for those in their 20s, the data showed.

The Ministry of Welfare and Health, meanwhile, said it will provide commemorative canes to 1,488 people who turned 100 years old this year to congratulate them on their longevity and health.

Every year since 1993, the ministry has offered canes made of rare woods to the centenarians. The canes are light and strong and symbolize a healthy and long life, officials said.

The ministry said it will hold an event on the Oct. 2 International Day of Older Persons, which was designated by the United Nations in 1991.

A total of 3,159 centenarians were living in the country as of November 2015, up from 1,835 tallied five years earlier, according to the census data compiled by Statistics Korea.



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