South Korea’s Elderly Poverty Rate Highest Among OECD Countries

South Korea has the highest poverty rate for elderly citizens among 34 advanced nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according a report released on Sunday.

The report from the government-funded Korea Labor Institute showed that as of 2011, 48.6 percent of elderly citizens lived below the poverty line. Switzerland ranked second in the report at 24 percent, nearly half of South Korea’s rate.

One contributing factor to Korea’s elderly poverty problem is its low net pension replacement rate of 45.2 percent, which is also far below the OECD average, reports Yonhap News Agency. Only five other nations–Mexico, Japan, Britain, New Zealand and Ireland–had a net pension replacement rate lower than South Korea. However, they did not have an elderly poverty rate nearly as high as Korea’s.

South Korea’s low employment rate for senior citizens is another major factor. In 2014, only 2 million out of 6.4 million senior citizens were employed, according to International Business Times.


For 10 consecutive years, South Korea has had the highest suicide rate among OECD countries, with a gradual increase in suicide rates for senior citizens. For elderly suicides, economic reasons was the most common motive cited at 44.1 percent, followed by family problems 11.4 percent and disease or disability at 10.9 percent.

“The problem of poverty among the elderly population will get more serious when the country’s elderly population grows further and baby boomers begin to retire in full swing,” Kim Bok-soon, an author of the report, told Yonhap. “The government’s policy on the labor market needs to be changed so it can accept more elderly workers.”


Featured image via Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald