SEOUL, March 28 (Korea Bizwire) – Data shows that one out of four people who filed for bankruptcy is over the age of 60, a stark indicator of the increasing worries over an ageing society and widespread poverty among seniors.
Koreans in their 50s usually have financial difficulties that result from being economically active, such as starting a business or getting a loan. However, those in their 60s often declare bankruptcy because they cannot afford medical costs or life expenses.
The aging of society and old-age poverty are like two sides of a coin. Half of the senior population in Korea live in poverty.
Statistics from the OECD show that the relative poverty rate among seniors over the age of 65 is 49.6 percent, which is four times higher than the OECD average (12.6 percent).
There are many seniors who are not able to find decent employment after mandatory retirement from their ‘regular’ jobs. Even if they do, most of them work in low paying temp-jobs in the service industry.
The problem of poverty is even severe among seniors who live alone.
According to data from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the average monthly income of seniors who lived alone was 970,000 won in the second quarter last year. To make matters worse, 65 percent of the income (628,000 won) was received as allowance from family members and acquaintances.
The number of seniors living alone is around 1.44 million nationwide. Due to poverty and loneliness, some of the elderly are pushed to the limit, and are forced to file for bankruptcy. Some even make extreme choices, such as committing suicide.
Korea has one of the highest rates of suicide among the elderly in the world, at 55.5 per 100,000. This is double the suicide rate in Korea among all age groups. The suicide rate also increases as age increases. The suicide rate of men over 80 years of age is an almost unbelievable 160 per 100,000 people.
Not all suicides result from economic pressures, but there has been a strong correlation between poverty and suicide in Korea since the 1990s.
The current senior population retired before the national pension system was established. As a result, most seniors do not have a source of income other than their basic pensions, which only provides a small amount of money.
Experts voice out the need for social security systems to prevent lonely seniors from going bankrupt or committing suicide. They emphasize that due to the lack of financial resources, local government offices cannot cover all expenses to provide a decent income to seniors, and finding ways to support them through collaboration between local governments and communities are a must.
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)