Working old people in Japan and old people creating communities in Europe
No chance to work and low public pension for Korean old people
No gender inequality resolves health and poverty problems.
The aging speed of Korea is the world's highest. Korea is projected to be an aged society in 2018 with higher than 14% of the population over 65 while by 2025, 1 out of 5 will be more than 65 years old, which makes Korea a super-aged society.
Although there are discussions on the paradigm shift in welfare policies in relation to the low birth rate, no gender perspective is observed in the process of setting a new direction of welfare policies. The reason for The Women’s News to have visited Japan and European countries under the subject of ‘Welfare for Senior Citizens from Gender Perspectives’ through the sponsorship of Korea Press Foundation is to search for Korea’s way in such advanced countries that became aged societies earlier. The Korean society with lack of women-friendly welfare policies for the aged need to set a new framework for the welfare policies for the aged from gender perspectives based on cases of those advanced countries.
Aged females who have longer life expectancy but have less incomes and assets suffer from poverty, solitude and health problems. The cases seen in Japan, France and Finland The Women’s News visited were almost alike with no big differences.
In Japan, the first case of becoming a super-aged society in 2006 in the world, old people in their 70s and 80s still worked in the fields and consequently the working aged people have become one of the general aspects of the society. When it comes to the employment rate, 47.3% for the women from 60 to 64 and 29.8% for the women from 65 to 69 make a higher employment rate of the women aged 60 and higher while it is 31.3% in Korea (as of July, 2015). It is the outcome of the Japanese Government’s policy to actively support the establishment of village businesses and businesses by rural women so as to increase the number of jobs for the aged females. One of the representative companies is Ogawanosho Co., Ltd. located in Ogawa Village, Nagano Prefecture. This village business has employed women aged 60 or higher, producing oyakis, a Japanese traditional food. All those employees had been working at tollgates, fast food stores and so forth. Working old females do not mean just ‘earning money’ but also solution to the problem of solitude, one of the issues faced with aged societies, as working old people can be excluded from the target group for caring.
Most of the households of the aged people in Korea consist of one old person or an old couple. Silver towns, nursing homes or sanatoriums are only allowed to rich people. On the other hand, various forms of residential systems for the aged such as group living or a collective house have been settled in Japan. ‘COCO shyonandai’ is the first group living in Japan where single old women over 65 live together. They can enjoy a community life in the shared spaces, keeping their private lives at the same time.
In ‘Seiseki Collective House’, different generations enjoy common lives, including couples and whole families. These kinds of cooperative living systems show wisdom of respecting privacy and preventing loneliness. 80% of single member households are female (survey by Meiji University). With an increasing number of households in solitude because of death, divorce and choice of a single life, more various alternative residential systems are expected to be suggested.
In Europe, the isolation of the elderly became a social issue after the severe heat wave had killed 15,000 people in 2003, and most of the dead were represented by the aged living alone. Consequently, a new form of residence called ‘cohabitation’ began to appear. Old people and young people live together in a cohabitation. Since this living system is able to solve the serious shortage of housing for the young people together with the matter of solitude of the aged, Seoul City recently started to benchmark the case under the name of ‘Generations under the Same Roof’. Under the ‘cohabitation’ system, an aged person rents an empty room to a young person, and the young person has to spend a certain time with the old person or have dinner together. On condition of observing the regulations, the young person is permitted to have a room with half the price or nothing. More than 70% of the users of cohabitation are women.
‘Loppukiri’ in Finland is a new form of dwelling for the aged that many countries try to benchmark.
It seems similar to a silver town in a sense that old people live together in an apartment. However, the essential difference lies on self-determination by the elderly who establish a cooperative union themselves in selecting an apartment construction site, designing spaces and deciding operational regulations. When the suicide rate ranked first as solitude had become one of the most serious social issues in Finland, the Government and Helsinki City actively supported the ‘Loppukiri’ project.
Another thing in common between France and Finland is that the consolidated public pension system makes sure of a stable life in later years without working. As high as 40% of the tax burden ratio has been generally accepted by the people because of a lot of benefits they will receive in later years as such. For reference, the tax burden ratio in Korea is 18.7% (as of 2012) while the average among the OECD countries is 24.7%. The public pension system in France and Finland also includes such supplementary policies for women who have lower incomes and shorter periods of duration of entitlement to the National Pension due to child-raising or family nursing as the pension for the bereaved families.
On the other hand, the public pension in Korea is not enough to prepare for the old age because the income replacement rate of the National Pension, one of the representative measures to prepare for one’s later years, is merely around 40%. According to the results from the social surveys in 2015 announced by the National Statistical Office on November 26, 72.6% of the householders aged 19 or higher are preparing for their old age, and 55.1% consider ‘the National Pension’ to be the main measure to prepare for their old age. It is analyzed by experts that only the National Pension of 40% of the income replacement rate is not enough to prepare for the declining years. Especially, women are more vulnerable than men in preparing for later years as just 55.1% of the female householders prepare for their old age while 78.7% of the male householders do.
Experts in pension in France and Finland emphasized that it should be prior to incorporating a gender perspective in the pension system to solve gender inequality in the labor market for guaranteeing the lives of old women. It is because gender inequality throughout the whole lifetime is directly connected to poverty and health problem in the old age. They also pointed out that the Korean society and Korean companies should change their male-centered organizational culture where even the rule of equal labor and equal wage is not observed with the gender gap in wage not narrowing, and sexual harassments happen frequently in work places.
Recently in Korea, the movement for policy-making for the aged females started. ‘Ha-pyeong Village 9988 Shelter’ in Hwangjeon-myeon, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do, Korea is a community where single women aged 65 or higher live together. Seoul City is benchmarking ‘Cohabitation’ of France under the name of ‘Generations under the Same Roof’.