01/09/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Less divorces but more elderly people in Korea

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

The National Statistics Office presented indicators for the years 2004/2005. There are ever more elderly people to support and less young people to foot the bills.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The number of divorces in South Korea has dropped for the first time in 17 years and marriages have increased. However, data about the population's constant ageing and resultant imbalance in national productivity gives cause for concern.

On 6 January, the National Statistics Office published indicators about Korean society and compared them to previous data: divorces have dropped by 16.6% and remained stable at 139,365 in 2004. For the first time in eight years, marriages have increased: the Office said there were 310,944, a 2% increase over 1996.

The average age of newly weds is however increasing: Korean men are getting married when they are about 30.6 years – an increase of 0.5 years compared to previous years – while women are tying the knot when they are 27.5 years. As a result, the child-bearing age has also gone up with Korean women giving birth to their first child when they are 28.9 years, a figure which was fixed at 26.4 in 1998.

Thanks to this information, the Office was able to draw attention to the fact that 100 people aged between 15 and 64 years (the working age bracket) had to support 12.6 people on pension. Last year, this figure was 0.5 points lower. The number of Koreans aged more than 65 years –and therefore who are on pension – increased to 4.38 million at the end of 2005: the number increases by the year and ranges between an average 7.2 and 9.1 percentage points of the population total.

The other side of the coin – the "productive" population between 15 and 64 years – is stagnant at 71.8% and the number of youth aged less than 14 is decreasing all the time: in 2000, they represented 21.1% of the population and in 2005, they accounted for 19.1%.

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