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(LEAD) Working-age population to tumble 35 pct over next 30 years

Industry 16:01 May 26, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5, 16-17; ADDS image)

SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's working-age population is expected to plunge 35 percent over the next 30 years amid the record low birthrate and rapid aging, a government estimate showed Thursday.

The working-age population, or people aged 15 to 64, is expected to reach 24.19 million in 2050, down from 37.38 million in 2020, according to the latest medium variant projection by Statistics Korea.

Such people took up 72.1 percent of the 52 million population in 2020, but the share will decline to 51.1 percent of 47.36 million in 30 years, the estimate showed.

The gloomy outlook comes as South Korea is struggling with demographic challenges from a chronic decline in childbirths and rapid aging.

Many young people delay or give up on getting married or having babies due to economic difficulties, such as high education and housing prices, and changing social perceptions of marriage.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, depicts South Korea's low childbirths and rapid aging. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The country's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- hit an all-time low of 0.81 last year, down from 0.84 a year prior. It marked the fourth straight year the rate was below 1 percent.

A continued fall in the working-age population spawns concerns the country's growth potential could be eroded.

Except for the administrative city of Sejong, all 16 provinces and major cities will likely see the working-age population fall in 2050 from 2020, it showed.

Such population is expected to post a fall of more than 40 percent in nine provinces and cities, led by the southeastern cities of Ulsan and Daegu with 50.6 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

Rapid aging will sharply boost the percentage of people aged 65 or older of the total population over the next 30 years.

The number of those aged 65 or older is expected to reach 19 million in 2050, more than doubling from 8.15 million in 2020. Such people will likely exceed the milestone of 10 million for the first time in 2024.

Around four out of 10 people in South Korea will be over 65 in 2050. This compared with the share of 15.7 percent in 2020.

South Korea became an aged society in 2017, in which the percentage of those aged 65 or older exceeded 14 percent of its population. The country is widely expected to become a super-aged society in 2025, when the percentage of older adults will top 20 percent.

In 2050, the proportion of such people will take up the highest rate of 49.5 percent in South Jeolla Province, followed by 48.9 percent in North Gyeongsang Province.

The data also showed 13 provinces and cities, including Seoul and the southern port city of Busan, will see their residents decline in 2050, compared with 30 years ago.

The number of people living in the capital will likely reach 7.92 million in 2050, down 17.7 percent from 9.62 million in 2020, the statistics agency said. In an extreme scenario, the number of people in Seoul is forecast to shrink 25 percent to 7.21 million.

The median age of South Koreans is expected to reach 57.9 in 2050, up from 43.7 in 2020, as life expectancy will rise and the number of childbirths will fall.

This computer-generated image depicts South Korea's demographic cliff. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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