Date
11 December 2017
Immigrants make up a little over 3 percent of South Korea's population. Photo: AFP
Immigrants make up a little over 3 percent of South Korea's population. Photo: AFP

S Korea may need 15 mln immigrants as workforce shrinks

As South Korea ages and its workforce shrinks, it may have to boost its population by nearly a third by 2060 to sustain economic growth, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a private Seoul-based think tank.

The Korea Economic Research Institute released a report Monday that said the country needs as many as 15 million immigrants by that year. Immigrants now account for 1.7 million, or a little over 3 percent, of South Korea’s 50 million residents.

The country’s rapidly aging population is expected to begin shrinking in the near future because of its low birth rate. 

Government figures show the workforce aged between 15 to 64 is likely to peak at 37 million in 2016 before declining to 33 million in 2030 and 22 million in 2060.

That is in line with forecasts for the country’s population to fall from 52 million in 2030 to 44 million in 2060.

South Korea’s fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime — was 1.19 last year, among the world’s lowest. A rate of about 2.1 is needed to maintain the size of a population.

“We have no alternative but to take in more immigrants to sustain growth,” the WSJ quoted KERI senior economist Cho Gyeong-lyeob as saying.

Cho, who co-authored the KERI report, said immigration would be the only viable option for South Korea to sustain its growth, short of unification with North Korea and its 25 million people, which is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

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