|retirement (Photo credit: 401K)|
The baby boomer generation, which refers to people born in Korea between 1955 and 1963, is falling into the poverty trap of old age. With a people that prides itself on strong family bonds, the 50-somethings are the most squeezed financially because they have to support both their parents and children.
The Bank of Korea study reaffirms the troubles confronting the retiring baby boomer. Most of them require help because of falling home prices or those that need loans to start their own businesses in the latter years of life.
Like most retirees, Koreans struggle to work longer. People with doctoral degrees and former managers at large firms, now stand in line to work as supermarket cashiers, that pay $800 a month.
Studies indicate Koreans retire at 54 years old on the average, but work until 71 years. Little wonder the nation’s notorious old-age poverty rate of 45.1 percent is more than three times higher than the world average of 13.5 percent. (In the United States the poverty rate of the elderly is at 10 percent.) If nothing is done, the baby boomer problem will provide an added source of inter-generational conflict, adding to the unemployed youth problems in Korea.
To their credit, the government isn't ignoring the situation, but it has fallen far short of solving the problem.
The Korean government has encouraged people to work longer and take a more active roll in their retirement financial needs. These are meaningful steps, but fall far short of a fundamental remedy, which is raising the retirement age. The time has long pasted for Korea to gradually extend its current age limit of 55-58 to 60-65, as is the case in Japan and many European countries.
Businesses, particularly large companies, are the strongest opponents to a prolonged working age, mentioning the high jobless rate among the young. "You are taking away the jobs of your children,” they say. But labor experts find little direct relationship between retirement age extension and the youth unemployment rate, as most companies do not fill the void left by retirees with fresh workers. These are two different employment issues to be tackled separately.
This is the first Korean generation that supported their parents but do not expect similar services from their children. Koreans and their government are facing the same kinds of retirement funding problems that we in the U.S. face. Koreans face an unrealistic reliance on the governments efforts to supplement everyone's retirement. It's interesting that the Koreans are just as unprepared for retirement as Americans are.