Fletcher in the News

Bhaskar Chakravorti on South Korea's Growing Demographic Challenge

Quartz

Bhaskar Chakravorti is a Senior Associate Dean at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

An Elderly Crisis and a Youth Crisis: South Korea’s Got It All

With around a quarter of its population older than 60, Japan has rightly earned its rep for having the worst demographic crises in the world. But just to its north, there’s one that threatens to be just as nasty. Or even nastier—in fact, by 2045, the average age of the South Korean population will be 50, the highest in the world…

…This forms what Bhaskar Chakravorti, executive director for the Institute for Business in the Global Context at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, says is South Korea’s “deepest” structural economic problem. ”Pretty soon this population is going to be unproductive and 10-15% of its GDP will go toward supporting this population, according to some estimates,” Chakravorti tells Quartz…

…One of the big reasons for Korea’s paradoxical labor market lies in its reliance on chaebol, big conglomerates like Samsung and Hyundai. They’ve been the engines of Korea’s manufacturing-led economic boom of the last few decades. Koreans spend some 70% of household spending on private education in order to earn their children a spot in one of the top universities—pretty much the only ticket in town to landing a chaebol job. But as the 30 biggest chaebol provide only 6% of Korea’s jobs, that single-minded focus is, for many, self-defeating. “You have roughly 300,000 college grads out of Korea competing for 18,000 jobs,” Chakravorti tells Quartz. “We’re looking at a society that has become obsessed with a handful of institutions that everyone wants to go to.”

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