The Aging of Korea: Demographics and Retirement Policy in the Land of the Morning Calm
Richard Jackson and Keisuke Nakashima gave a briefing highlighting the findings of a major new CSIS Global Aging Initiative report on Korea.
Korea is still a young nation. But with a fertility rate of just 1.1—the lowest level in the world—it is about to undergo a stunning demographic transformation. Today just 9 percent of Korea's population is elderly, well beneath the developed-country average of 15 percent. By 2050, however, that share is due to rise to 38 percent, putting Korea in contention with Japan, Italy, and Spain for the oldest country on earth. By then, there will be more Koreans turning 90 each year than being born.
The massive size of Korea’s age wave—and the speed with which it is approaching—would alone pose an enormous fiscal, economic, and social challenge. What makes the challenge even more daunting is that Korea, unlike Japan, Europe, and the United States, must confront its age wave while it is still in the midst of modernization.
The CSIS Global Aging Initiative report explores the implications of Korea's age wave for the sustainability of public and private retirement systems and outlines an innovative reform strategy. It also lays out an agenda for broader social and economic reforms that can help maintain economic and living standard growth as Korea's workforce grays and shrinks, including polices that encourage longer work lives, make it easier for women to balance jobs and babies, and help families care for the burgeoning number of frail elders.