As South Korea’s economy continues to grow amidst a turbulent global economic forecast, the proud successes of the hard working Korean population are masking an issue that has grown to be amongst the worst in the world. Poverty within the elderly sect has grown to levels that are disturbing to say the least when you read the statistics. Ranked only behind Ireland in terms of poverty levels among seniors worldwide, I was able to locate some numbers that detail just how severe the problem is. Korean’s 65 and up are only bringing in an annual income of only 66.7% of the median income for the entire nation.(nationmultimedia.com 7/9/12). Of that income, only 15% is from pensions. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development determines that globally, 21.4% of people 65 and up take in earned income……in Korea, its 60%. (nationmultimedia.com 7/9/12) Just to add some perspective to these figures, in France, seniors receive 87.6% of their income from a pension system and have an earned income of 6.4%. (nationmultimedia.com 7/9/12)
The issues stem from several definitive inadequacies in Government policy and planning. The main causes have been a weak safety net that drives employees to work longer hours coupled with a weak subsidy granted to the poor elderly that offers relief of roughly $80 US dollars a month in aid. Add that to the lack of education that the population receives on creating their own retirement savings plans and you have a nation that is very ill equipped for life after work.
This is made harder to swallow when Nicole and I roam the streets of our city and see our friendly old workers that never miss a chance to share a smile and a wave as we pass by. Sweeping streets, mopping subway platforms, delivering food, working market stalls and construction are just a few of the jobs that are held by the older populous. Its hard to not feel sad that instead of getting to enjoy the golden years of their life that so many are forced to work such labor intensive jobs just to keep their heads above water.
To read more about Hendrik’s mural, check out the link to Designboom here.
Thanks for reading,