- Volume 30 Issue 1
Using data from the Korean Labor & Income Panel Study (KLIPS), this study investigates private income transfers in Korea, where adult children have undertaken the most responsibility of supporting their elderly parents without well-established social safety net for the elderly. According to the KLIPS data, three out of five households provided some type of support for their aged parents and two out of five households of the elderly received financial support from their adult children on a regular base. However, the private income transfers in Korea are not enough to alleviate the impact of the fall in the earned income of those who retired and are approaching an age of needing financial assistance from external source. The monthly income of those at least the age of 75, even with the earning of their spouses, is below the staggering amount of 450,000 won, which indicates that the elderly in Korea are at high risk of poverty. In order to analyze microeconomic factors affecting the private income transfers to the elderly parents, the following three samples extracted from the KLIPS data are used: a sample of respondents of age 50 or older with detailed information on their financial status; a five-year household panel sample in which their unobserved family-specific and time-invariant characteristics can be controlled by the fixed-effects model; and a sample of the younger split-off household in which characteristics of both the elderly household and their adult children household can be controlled simultaneously. The results of estimating private income transfer models using these samples can be summarized as follows. First, the dominant motive lies on the children-to-parent altruistic relationship. Additionally, another is based on exchange motive, which is paid to the elderly parents who take care of their grandchildren. Second, the amount of private income transfers has negative correlation with the income of the elderly parents, while being positively correlated with the income of the adult children. However, its income elasticity is not that high. Third, the amount of private income transfers shows a pattern of reaching the highest level when the elderly parents are in the age of 75 years old, following a decreasing pattern thereafter. Fourth, public assistance, such as the National Basic Livelihood Security benefit, appears to crowd out private transfers. Private transfers have fared better than public transfers in alleviating elderly poverty, but the role of public transfers has been increasing rapidly since the welfare expansion after the financial crisis in the late 1990s, so that one of four elderly people depends on public transfers as their main income source in 2003. As of the same year, however, there existed and occupied 12% of the elderly households those who seemed eligible for the National Basic Livelihood benefit but did not receive any public assistance. To remove elderly poverty, government may need to improve welfare delivery system as well as to increase welfare budget for the poor. In the face of persistent elderly poverty and increasing demand for public support for the elderly, which will lead to increasing government debt, welfare policy needs targeting toward the neediest rather than expanding universal benefits that have less effect of income redistribution and heavier cost. Identifying every disadvantaged elderly in dire need for economic support and providing them with the basic livelihood security would be the most important and imminent responsibility that we all should assume to prepare for the growing aged population, and this also should accompany measures to utilize the elderly workforce with enough capability and strong will to work.