South Korea’s Demographic Dividend: Echoes of the Past or Prologue to the Future?

South Korea’s Demographic Dividend: Echoes of the Past or Prologue to the Future? weaves together the compelling story of social and demographic effects of the economic miracle in South Korea. This exploration of social change examines the demographic dividend: a window of time when a large percentage of a country’s population is in the working ages as a result of low fertility and declining mortality. The working-age population benefits from a relatively small dependent population as the size of the elderly cohort is small and the percentage of children is decreasing. This allows the working-age cohort to amass savings and increase productivity. But what happens when that demographic dividend comes to a close and the working age population must support a large elderly population?

For centuries South Koreans relied on the intergenerational Confucian contract whereby parents supported children with the reciprocal expectation that children would support their parents in their older years. In South Korea’s Demographic Dividend Dr. Stephen examines what happens to families—and the larger society— when this contract is broken. The book concludes with proposed policies that address the maintenance of social cohesion in light of structural changes in the personal and public spheres as a result of Korea’s unprecedented economic growth.

This work was made possible by generous support of the Korean Studies Promotion Service of the Academy of Korean Studies with a grant funded by the Republic of Korea Ministry of Education (AKS-2010-DZZ-2102).

Elizabeth Hervey Stephen is associate professor of demography and CNDLS senior scholar at the Georgetown University.

Elizabeth Hervey Stephen