The proportion of people in South Korea aged 65 years or older could increase sharply amid a rapidly aging population, the country's statistics agency said Monday.
Statistics Korea forecast that the country's population is likely to reach 39 million in 2067, sharply down from 51.7 million in 2019. It said people aged 65 years or older could account for 46.5 percent of the country's population, which marks a sharp rise from the 14.9 percent over the cited period.
A country is defined as a super-aged society when more than 21 percent of its people are 65 or older.
In comparison, the world's population is projected to increase to 10.38 billion in 2067 from the current 7.71 billion in 2019. The portion of the world's people aged 65 years or older could rise to 18.6 percent in 2067 from 9.1 percent in 2019.
The demographic outlook is the latest warning that Asia's fourth-largest economy will have the largest proportion of people aged 65 years or older in 2067 among 201 countries.
In comparison, the proportions of people aged 65 years or older in the U.S., China, and Japan are projected to stand at 25.1 percent, 29.9 percent and 38.1 percent in 2067, respectively.
The statistics agency said South Koreans aged younger than 15 could account for 8.1 percent in 2067 from 12.4 percent in 2019. It also said the proportion of the country's working-age population -- those aged between 15 and 64 -- could fall to 45.4 percent of the population in 2067 from 72.7 percent in 2019.
A rapid decline in working-age population could place a heavy financial burden on young people and add a further drag on South Korea's potential growth in the coming decades.
The development is blamed mainly on South Korea's chronically low birthrate and increased life expectancy of South Koreans
Last year, South Korea's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- hit a record low of 0.98, much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep South Korea's population stable at 51 million.
In 2017, South Korea's total fertility rate hit 1.05, the lowest among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 36 mostly rich nations whose average total fertility rate stood at 1.65.
The decline in childbirths comes as some young South Koreans are opting to avoid three major milestones -- dating, marriage and having children -- because they cannot find decent jobs amid a prolonged economic slowdown.
Other factors are the high cost of private education for kids and skyrocketing home prices, as well as the difficulties women face in finding jobs after spending extended time away from work to raise children.
South Koreans' life expectancy stood at 82.5 between 2015 and 2020, compared with 63.1 between 1970 and 1975.
The life expectancy for the world's population rose to 72.3 from 58.1 during the cited period.