According to the UN report World Population Aging
(2017), the number of people aged 60 or older around the world is 962 million as of 2017, which accounts for 13% of the global population. As population aging continues, the number of those aged 60 or older increases by 3% each year (UN 2017
). Korea also has been transforming into an aging country since 2000 when the percentage of those aged 65 or older first exceeded 7% of the total population. The country has become an aged country in the shortest period of time globally, as the percentage surpassed 14.2% in 2017. Furthermore, a survey published by Statistics Korea
) forecasts that the percentage of those aged 65 or older will sharply increase from 12.8% in 2015 to 30% in 2045, and the average life expectancy will reach 82.9 years.
While policy actions have been put in place to address population aging, baby boomers, who account for the largest proportion of the population in Korea, are beginning to retire early. The early retirement of those in their 50s has caught the country off guard and is increasingly becoming a social issue. When the 50 plus generation, aged 50–64, reaches 12 million in 2019 with early retirement and increased life expectancy, it will account for 23% of Korea’s total population of 51.8 million (Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs 2015
; Economic Survey of Korea 2018
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, while the number of those in their 50s increases with increased life expectancy, they retire earlier and earlier; the average retirement age stands at 53. Although many of these people want to work, they are less likely to acquire another job, and the quality of jobs they may undertake after retirement is quite low. The central government’s efforts focus on welfare programs, which support the elderly (aged 65 or older) and vulnerable groups. However, the Seoul Metropolitan government needs to plan the new policies for the 50 plus generation such as preventative support to the life redesign and field-based sustainable support through links with related jobs, and social contributions.
In response, the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation was established in 2016, and systematic and integrated services have begun to support the social participation of the 50 plus generation (Nam 2018
). The Seoul 50 Plus Foundation developed and successfully implemented systematic, integrated, and sustainable policies to address the various social participation needs of the 50 plus generation that were left behind in government policies. The Foundation modeled a new paradigm that turns socioeconomic problems caused by demographic structure and social changes into opportunities. This paradigm is an innovative case of public institution-led social participation service policies for the 50 plus generation—the first of its kind not only in Korea and but also around the world (Han 2014
Thus, this study analyzes the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation’s case of service policies to support the 50 plus generation and examines the characteristics of public services for the sustainable social participation of those in their 50s and the successful operation of the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation’s social welfare service delivery system to provide sustainable public services. By doing so, the present study aims to suggest specific implications that may help aging cities and countries around the world to explore the diversity and sustainable success of 50 plus social participation policies over the long term and strategies to operate and differentiate the integrated platform of 50 plus social welfare services.
4. Case Study
The counseling services of the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation are divided into two tracks. The first track provides professional counseling in seven areas of the 50 plus generation’s life redesign. The 50 Plus Foundation placed its focus on moving beyond providing help to solve career-related or financial problems and to instead offer various services that help the 50 plus generation lead a healthy life over the long term with the aim of designing their life. The focus was placed on the seven life redesign areas; ‘job, finance’, ‘social relationship’, ‘family’, ‘health’, ‘social contribution’, and ‘leisure’, were used to identify required service programs and implement interconnected service policies for the programs.
Likewise, the service operates 50 plus participants’ community activities in seven areas and creation activities by discovering a job model. Additionally, the foundation provides follow-up support such as linking jobs with related organizations and encourages startups through incubating. As such, support is provided directly to 50 plus generation-centered groups and research for seven areas of life design, programs planned by the 50 plus generation, or their community activities. A consultant from the Counseling Center explains the uniqueness of such services:
“Consulting services provided by our foundation move beyond simple services that are offered by other organizations such as policy support and analyze many concerns of the 50 plus generation from various angles in an integrated way. We have a system that delivers tailored support services that design and implement an individual’s life cycle. Accordingly, these services are very significant as they pursue holistic support that can continue to support an individual’s life and help him or her to live a healthy and meaningful life without being disconnected from society, instead of one-off government support services.”
The second track matches education or training courses with the needs of 50 plus counseling clients. The 50 Plus Counseling Center provides one-stop services for seven areas of life redesign and comprehensive support that connects all of Seoul’s policies and systems with various professional organizations. With counseling from professional consultants in the 50 plus generation, it supports social relationships by connecting projects and social networks, runs life redesign programs, and nurtures and assigns 50 plus consultants and moderators. The center offers a tailored learning process design that introduces training programs tailored to the propensities and characteristics of counselors, provides 50 plus information that introduces policies, systems, groups, and programs related to the 50 plus generation, and supports the formation of a network. The system is optimized to establish field-based policies through people-to-people and information exchanges with the 50 plus generation.
The 50 Plus Foundation aims to improve the 50 plus generation’s quality of life and promote a shift in the perception of their transition period, aiming to enhance their social participation and activities in which they can share experiences. To achieve these objectives, the Seoul Metropolitan Government generated innovative services that strengthen field-based implementation together with the 50 plus generation. The service functions are distributed to the ‘foundation’, ‘campuses’, and ‘centers’ to establish an integrated operation system so that tailored programs reflecting local characteristics can be operated efficiently while maintaining consistency, continuity, and uniformity in the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s support policies for the 50 plus generation’s social participation.
As a result, the organization of the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation consists of three 50 Plus Campuses and five 50 Plus Centers around the Control Tower as of 2019 (see Figure 3
). The Seoul 50 Plus Foundation oversees the 50 Plus Project and operates and supports 50 Plus Campuses and Centers. The foundation directly operates 50 Plus Campuses, which serve as hubs for providing sustainable support services across Seoul while maintaining the consistency of the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation’s policies. With district budgets, the foundation also commissions the private sector to operate 50 Plus Centers, which serve as hubs for the activities of grassroots organizations in smaller parts of the city. This allows such organizations to provide local programs reflecting local characteristics.
The Seoul 50 Plus Campus and Center are district facilities that provide a site for networking activities between the 50 plus generation. The campuses and centers currently deliver local training programs and community-linked programs. The 50 plus new culture and infrastructure strategy provides locations in which the 50 plus generation can share activities, build a community, and create a new culture. Furthermore, it supports community activities based on common interests in which the 50 plus generation takes the clubs, small groups, associations, organizations, cooperatives, and legal entities. It also provides various places; shared offices, lecture rooms, meeting rooms, forums, community halls, and startup innovation centers where different generations can exchange ideas. The holistic design of the 50 Plus Centers and Campuses and the operation of communities are intended to encourage the active participation of 50 plus service providers and can serve as an important element in ensuring service recipients’ active and sustainable participation and making it easier to access services.
The 50 Plus Foundation has also established the 50 Plus Information System, an integrated and efficient platform that gathers generational information in one place to share and provide information. It provides users with quick, accurate, and tailored services in an efficient and integrated way so that all 50 plus generation information such as jobs, communities, counseling, training courses, and contests can be shared and exchanged. The 50 Plus Information System is a tool that facilitates online access to services and offers users more opportunities to log in any time, receive various types of information, and find support services that fit their needs. Strategies that establish a holistic organization to facilitate access to services across all parts of Seoul and build a community-centered network for those in the 50 plus generation who are not familiar with community or social participation activities have encouraged more active participation from this generation, resulting in sustainable participation in activities and an a consistently increasing number of participants.
4.3. Systematic Function Distribution
The 50 Plus Foundation required a systematic and professional operation management of social welfare services and established a service participation process model in which participants begin with counseling, go through a preliminary process to explore various opportunities, build their competencies through a specific retraining or education program, choose their desired social participation activities, and receive personalized support. Integrated support services for the 50 plus generation’s social participation begin with 50 Plus Counseling Center, where counseling is provided with 50 plus participants or expert consultants. Participants then join job- or activity-exploring courses on life transition, jobs, activities, and daily life skills, moving on to life transition professional courses that offer more professional training, job or activities professional courses, or job-connecting training courses in partnership with professional organizations. This leads to social participation activities in jobs or activities.
The primary objective of these training courses is to identify jobs that contribute to society with a strategy that involves the 50 plus generation in the discovery of jobs and occupations to create shared social value, implement partnering projects, help them find the latter part of their life rewarding, and use their competencies and experiences. Discovered job models lead to job support services; they provide support for the establishment of social enterprises, cooperatives, and other non-profit organizations with shared offices or group support, result in social contribution activities through talent donation, and connect with training courses or related organizations through newly discovered job models. Allowing the 50 plus generation to take the lead as job seekers rather than welfare recipients engages their competencies and experiences, allows them to explore new career paths, and provides them with new opportunities. This method supports activities that create new job demand, allowing the 50 plus generation to participate in social activities in a sustainable way. A project manager from the 50 Plus Foundation’s Public Relations and Cooperation Team explained the functions in each step of these courses as follows:
“Since the Seoul 50 Plus Project aims to not only support services but provide tailored services that can create participation, settlement, and sustainable social participation right from the design phase, the process design and each function have established an organic and strategic relationship and laid the groundwork where all functions of services can be operated systematically and organically by responsible centers or organizations. Accordingly, even though many participants sign up, one-on-one tailored services are operated smoothly. We are continuing to develop our foundation to increase the success rate in social participation, so we expect to deliver more advanced services in the future.”
The Seoul 50 Plus Foundation’s job strategy focuses on using the 50 plus generation’s experiences and abilities so that they can realize personal achievements, secure an income, generate social change, and contribute to society, providing opportunities to explore new careers, and creating and spreading job models by discovering and connecting the occupations that have social needs. Rather than simply providing job or training programs, the model delivers active support through reinforcing social networks that have deteriorated after retirement. The model allows the transition into a new career, startups through community. Additionally, it provides them with practical benefits and opportunities by implementing projects in connection with private enterprises and offering support in partnership with professional organizations. This model is further developed each year by discovering, connecting, and retraining the 50 plus generation with new and sustainable job models.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is a major stakeholder that supports and supervises the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation to provide realistic and integrated social participation services to the 50 plus generation. It plays a role in maintaining an organic relationship between the foundation and center-related organizations. The organizations in civil society serve as links to spaces in the local community that public institutions have difficulty working or accessing. This allows the 50 plus generation to build a cooperative network and lay the community groundwork, helping to expand various activities and effective services. Stakeholders in the private sector support professional and innovative programs that public institutions cannot provide to allow the 50 plus generation to receive systematic and professional training and consulting and participate realistically in society.
The number of partnering organizations that provide training to the 50 plus generation to establish a platform where they can share their experience and knowledge has increased every year. Such partners include various public institutions, private organizations, foundations, private enterprises, social enterprises, and cooperatives such as the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Seoul Welfare Foundation, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs etc.
Furthermore, with the 50 plus generation’s community activities, support for research by 50 plus participants, programs, shared offices, intergenerational integration startup campuses, 50 plus forums, and 50 plus festivals, the foundation provides support to enable 50 plus participants to proactively create various activities. Furthermore, by building and developing an organic relationship between the 50 plus generation, private organizations, civil society groups, and the foundation in job education, health, finance, counseling, and culture, it shares each organization’s professionalism and resources, explores joint planning for collaborative projects, and focuses on expanding the infrastructure. This results in the dissemination of a new culture and empathy regarding the 50 plus generation by increasing their information and databases and securing an information network. As of 2018, the foundation has partnerships with 100 organizations and groups.
The CEO of Hope Doremi discusses the organization’s partnership with the 50 Plus Foundation in the following:
“Together with the 50 Plus Foundation, Hope Doremi has carried out social contribution activity projects and helped many people in their 50s to participate in social activities since 2016. We have done various and sustainable activities contributing to the local community and been accepted positively by participants. I believe that co-existence with private organizations like us beyond government agencies not only disseminates social services, it also contributes to shared growth with various stakeholders and ultimately improves positive infrastructure and social service competencies across society.”
The field-based management provides cultural sites in which 50 plus participants take the lead, exchange, and work with one another. The foundation operates a systematic support system that offers 50 plus professional counseling, followed by training tailored to the needs of the 50 plus generation, and jobs, specific activities, or leisure. By reinforcing governance that connects related organizations, participants, the foundation, civil society groups, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government and operating an integrated information system, the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation’s integrated social participation services support the 50 plus generation’s sustainable social participation. The 50 Plus Project based on the integrated governance system across all parts of society results in the accumulation of organizational social service competencies and know-how regarding encouraging social participation from those in their 50s, includes more diverse participants, and performs an important function in maintaining sustainable services in society.
This case study of Seoul’s social participation service model for the 50 plus generation has identified the following implications. First, although national social welfare systems for elderly groups were primarily focused on providing support in the past, the social welfare system for the 50 plus generation now requires a participation-centered service system to consider their quality of life rather than solely focusing on productivity. As in the case of the Seoul 50 Plus Project, social services should be considered in the integrated service system to encourage and support voluntary participation in jobs, leisure, social contributions, health, family, finance, and social relationships.
Second, in accordance with changing trends, the 50 plus generation’s social welfare should move beyond startup or retirement support and ensure that they are not alienated from society and have access to participate more actively in job-seeking activities, community activities, and other civil society activities. In this respect, it is necessary to explore services in various aspects including society, culture, and economy and participation-centered programs. Finally, it is necessary to connect a network with the local community, social enterprises, and for-profit enterprises and change policy strategies. This will allow the realization of the effectiveness of realistic and sustainable social participation beyond the traditional social service delivery framework that designs or implements policies from the central or local government in a one-way, top-down direction.
However, this case study has only examined a single case. It means that this case study cannot represent the diversity of all social participation service activities for the 50 plus generation in a large city in Northeast Asia. Furthermore, the present study has limitations regarding subjective interpretations that occur in the analysis process. To overcome such limitations, it is necessary to conduct a comparative case study to juxtapose the social participation welfare service cases with those of large cities in other leading countries in Northeast Asia such as China or Japan. In addition, although this study used only the four factors to the case analysis but other factors to reinforce the social service system should be considered and empirically examined their effectiveness. Last, the perspective of social service providers without participant’s interviews would make it possible to differences regarding whether the social participation activities of service recipients in their 50s can ultimately lead to their service satisfaction with life. The future study will need a perspective balance between users and providers.