Precarious Work and the Elderly in Korea


The elderly work. In South Korea, with a relatively immature welfare system, they are increasingly working in poorly paid and insecure jobs.


In “Precarious Elderly Workers in Post-Industrial South Korea” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1423370), Yun-Young Kim and Sophia Seung-Yoon Lee of the Department of Social Welfare, Ewha Womans University and Seung-Ho Baek of the Department of Social Welfare at The Catholic University of Korea, all in Seoul, Korea examine this important and often neglected aspect of work in neoliberalising capitalist economies.

The paper’s abstract states:


This article examines how the combination of immature welfare state and expansion of the service economy, in particular, contributes to the precariousness of the elderly labour market in South Korea where nearly half of the elderly live below the poverty line. It completes an empirical analysis of how elderly workers in Korea are participating in the labour market and examines their situation using a conceptualisation of “precariousness.” It is explained how the elderly in an immature welfare state are pushed into bad jobs resulting in a large number of precarious “elderly workers” in an economically advanced country. Results of the statistical analysis suggest that, due to severe precariousness, the Korean elderly are unable to escape from poverty even though they work. Also, gender segregation of precariousness in the service industry has been exacerbated in the elderly labour market. Structural change such as the rapid transition to a service-oriented economy has a greater impact on elderly women than middle aged or elderly men because elderly women tend to have lower skill levels and shorter careers, mainly entering service occupations where the bad jobs are concentrated.


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