S. Korean manufacturing workforce aging fast over the past decade: report

According to the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI), the South Korean manufacturing workforce has witnessed faster aging over the past ten years, which may undercut the Asian Tigers’ growth potential drastically down the road.

Workers aged 50 and older accounted for 30.1 percent of the ROK’s total manufacturing population in 2020, up from 15.7 percent ten years earlier. The ratio of ROK’s manufacturing workers in their 30s fell to 27.8 percent from 35.1 percent over the same period, the sharpest drop among all age groups.

The percentage of manufacturing employees aged 15-29 fell to 15.2 percent from 21.6 percent, with employees in their 40s reducing to 26.9 percent from 27.7 percent.

KERI, which is the research arm of South Korea’s conglomerate lobby Federation of Korean Industries, said the nearly twofold increase in the number of senior manufacturing workers shows how serious the aging of the country’s manufacturing workforce is.

The think tank notes that South Korea’s manufacturing workers have been aging much quicker than those in the United States and Japan.

The average age of South Korean manufacturing employees rose by 3.3 years to 42.4 years in 2020 from 39.2 years in 2011. At the same time, Japan edged up to 42.8 from 41.6 over the cited period, with that for America increasing to 44.4 from 44.1.

KERI said the fast aging of South Korea’s manufacturing workforce is mainly to the country’s low birthrate and rapid population aging.

South Korea currently has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The country is expected to become a super-aged society in 2025 with the proportion of those aged 65 and older will hit 20 percent of the Korean population. The country had become an aged society in 2017, as the proportion of such people exceeded 14 percent.

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