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Elderly Koreans struggle to find jobs online

Many in the East Asian country say they don't know how to navigate job apps, internet on their mobiles and apply

An elderly South Korean woman is seen in this file photo

An elderly South Korean woman is seen in this file photo. (Photo:AFP) 

Published: November 02, 2023 06:00 AM GMT

Updated: November 02, 2023 07:01 AM GMT

The majority of senior citizens in rapidly aging South Korea have complained of being left out while searching for jobs due to their inability to navigate job apps on their mobile devices and apply online.

About 68.7 percent of elderly people surveyed recently said the biggest obstacle to finding job-related information was not knowing where to search for it, the Chosun Ilbo reported on Nov. 1.

The survey by the news outlet found that 486 out of 707 senior citizens did not now how to navigate online job portals.

It also revealed that some 235 (33.1 percent) of senior citizens found jobs through word of mouth, and only around 120 (28 percent) found jobs on the internet.

An unnamed 67-year-old job seeker in Miryang, South Gyeongsang province said that he had given up using a mobile phone to find jobs due to its complexity.

"In the past, I applied for jobs by written application, but I am at a loss nowadays, since everything is done online," he said.

One of his friends had taught him to use a mobile phone to search for jobs after he could not find any enticing job postings at a community center near his home.

However, he could not navigate through the online job portal which he described as a “digital maze.”

He was required to authenticate his identity to gain membership, which he says he has never done before.  

A lack of skill in using online job portals often leads to senior citizens only finding low-paying temporary jobs with the government such as raking up leaves, resulting in them giving up their search for work.

Many elderly suffer from relative poverty, reports say.

Another unnamed 67-year-old in Daegu lamented that lack of knowledge in navigating online sites was a hindrance to old-timers like him who relied on print media and word of mouth.

"I used to find jobs through regional newspapers, flyers, and word of mouth, but these days, you can't even find a job if you don't know how to use a smartphone app or the internet,” he said.

Lee Ho-seung, head of the Korean Senior Workers Union, said the elderly who are somewhat familiar with the online job search system are in a far better position than others who are unaware of its existence.

"Those who say navigating a job search app is difficult are better off than many other senior citizens who don't even know that they exist,” Lee said.

Hur Jun-soo, a lecturer at Soongsil University said educating senior citizens was a solution that could help them land a job through online portals.

"We're used to seeing senior citizens [as] subjects of care, but we need to treat them as a potential workforce and provide channels for them to easily find suitable jobs,” Hur said.

Some senior citizens said that they relied on youngsters to understand how online job portals work.

"With my daughter's help, I signed up for [a] job search website early this year and was surprised to see information on hourly wages and benefits,” said an unnamed 70-year-old in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province.

“I was able to find the best job I could without having to ask my friends for information," he added.

About 18.4 percent of South Korea’s estimated 51.5 million population are aged 65 and above, according to state-run Statistics Korea.

The data shows an impending demographic crisis with a rapidly aging population while the Asian economic powerhouse grapples with alarming low birth rates.

Statistics Korea reported in August that the fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.7 in the second quarter of 2023. There were 56,087 newborn babies in the second quarter of this year, a drop of 6.8 percent on the same period last year.

At the current rate, the nation will have 13 million elderly people or 25.5 percent of the total population, making it a superaged society like Japan and Italy, experts warned.

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