S Korea’s fast-disappearing youth sets off alarm bells
Statistics Korea shows that the country is set to become the world’s second oldest country in the world after Qatar by 2060. Compared to the 1970s, fertility rates have dropped from 4.21 to 1.23.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - South Korea is forecast to be the world’s second-oldest country in 2060, due to declining birth rates and higher life expectancies, a government report said Wednesday.

According to the study by Statistics Korea based on current demographic trends, the ratio of people older than 64 is expected to rise to 40.1 per cent in 2060, up from the current 13.1 per cent, second only to Qatar (41.6 per cent).

Between 1970 and 1974, South Korea’s total fertility rate – the average number of children a woman of childbearing age – was 4.21. Between 2010 and 2014, it fell to 1.23. By comparison, the average in Europe was 1.58 and 1.94 in North America.

At the same time, South Koreans are living longer than Europeans or Americans on average. Average life expectancy in South Korea rose from 62.7 in the early 1970s to 81.3 in 2010-2013, higher than the current 76.1 in Europe and 79.1 in North America.

Another facet of the problem is the constant decline in South Korea’s “economically active population,” i.e. those between the ages of 15 and 64.

The latter peaked in 2012, at 73.1 per cent of the total population. However, it is expected to plunge to the 49.7 per cent by 2060.

As a result, an economically active person in Korea is expected to support an average of 1.01 elderly dependents older than 64 and younger than 15 in total, up from 0.37 now.

In the meantime, the world population will grow from 7.32 billion to 9.96 billion over the next 45 years. By contrast, South Korea's population will dwindle from 51 million in 2015 to 44 million in 2060, making the country slide from 27th most populous to 49th.