South Korea’s population has increased by 1.36 million, or 2.7 percent, compared to five years ago, entering the range of 50 million residents. It took 30 for Korea’s population to reach 50 million from 1985 when the population reached 40 million. It is encouraging news as the population is closely correlated with a country’s competitiveness. When taking a close look at the increase in population, however, South Korea’s economy is losing vitality due to a slowdown in the potential growth rates with deepening low birth rates and aging society.
According to the data published by Statistics Korea on September 7, South Korea’s population stood at around 51.07 million as of November 2015. About 49.5 percent of the population lived in the metropolitan areas, such as Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon. In 2010, the nation’s all cities and provinces showed the population ageing. In the latest survey, South Jeolla Province marked the first region to become a hyper-aging society. The nation’s single household rate accounted for nearly 30 percent of the total population, while the number of foreigners in Korea also surpassed 1 million for the first time, reaching 1.36 million. More than half of foreigner residents, 51.6 percent, were Chinese.
The number of single households also climbed to 5.2 million last year, accounting for about 27.2 percent of the total population. The figure increased by 3.3 percent point from five years ago. The single-person household has become the most common type, surpassing two-person household of 4.99 million (26.1 percent), three-person household of 4.1 million (21.5 percent) and four-person household of 3.59 million (18.8 percent). According to the surveys from 1990 to 2005, four-person household took the largest share of the total population but two-person household had the largest share with 24.6 percent in 2010 and then single-person household in 2015.
The number of female household heads is rapidly rising to 5.65 million, accounting for 29.6 percent. The figure increased by 960,000, or 3 percent, in the last five years and 3.86 million, or 13.9 percent, from 1.79 million, or 15.7 percent, in 1990.
Although the country’s total population is growing, the population of the youth is decreasing with the acceleration of low birth rates and aging society and the number of the middle-aged and elderly is rapidly increasing. Last year, the number of children aged 0 to 14 stood at 6.91 million, accounting for 13.9 percent of the total population. It was down by 970,000, or 2.3 percent point, from 7.88 million, or 16.2 percent, in 2010.
On the other hand, the number of elders over 65 reached 6.57 million, accounting for 13.2 percent of the total population, up 1.21 million, or 2.2 percent point, from the 5.36 million, or 11 percent, in 2010. Accordingly, the aging index, the ratio of the number of elderly persons to the number of young persons, surged from 68 percent in 2010 to 95.1 in 2015.
Among metropolitan local governments, South Jeolla Province became the first hyper-aging society – 20 percent of the population 65 or over – in the nation, reaching 21.1 percent. Other regions have also surpassed an aging society – 14 percent of the population 65 or over – and are about to become a hyper-aging society, including North Jeolla Province with 17.9 percent, North Gyeongsang Province with 17.8 percent, Ganwon Province with 16.9 percent and South Chungcheong Province with 16.3 percent.