Korea witnesses aging workforce trend in SME labor market

By Park Sae-jin Posted : April 22, 2024, 14:33 Updated : April 23, 2024, 17:10
This image was produced using the generative AI-based image creation service Karloai
This image was produced using the generative AI-based image creation service Karlo.ai

SEOUL, April 22 (AJU PRESS) - Amidst Korea's rapidly aging population and a trend of young individuals steering clear of smaller enterprises, the labor market has seen a rise in the number of older workers in 2023.

Data from Statistics Korea revealed on Monday that individuals in their 20s and 30s comprised 30.9 percent of the total small-and-medium-sized enterprise (SME) workforce of 25.3 million. Employees aged 50 and above constituted 47.8 percent of the workforce.

The phenomenon reflects the preferences of young job seekers. A survey conducted by the Korea Federation of SMEs in October 2023 among 1,000 people in their 20s showed that 47.4 percent prioritized higher wage levels when selecting employment opportunities, with 55.3 percent expressing reluctance to work for SMEs due to lower salaries.

Data also indicates that the average monthly wage desired by young job seekers was 3.2 million won ($2,336). In 2021, the average salary for SME workers stood at about 2.7 million won, while those employed in major conglomerates received an average monthly salary of about 5.6 million won.

In contrast, the predominant age group in major conglomerates was comprised of people in their 30s (30.9 percent), followed by those in their 40s (27.7 percent) and 50s (21 percent). Young workers in their 20s accounted for 15.7 percent of the workforce in major companies.

According to the national statistical information service, out of Korea's population of approximately 52 million, around 9.9 million people are aged 65 or older, accounting for 19.2 percent of the total population as of December 2023. Statistics Korea predicts that the number of elderly individuals will rise to 1.3 million by 2030 and 2.1 million by 2040.
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