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Top talents in Korean chipmakers offered later retirement

Feb. 13, 2022 - 15:01 By Son Ji-hyoung
A visual concept image of a semiconductor chip (123rf)
Engineers at South Korea’s semiconductor chipmakers are increasingly being offered the chance to put off retirement to a later date.

This comes as the memory chip powerhouse, home to Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, experiences a talent shortage in the industry.

The move will likely be welcome news to the government, which is struggling to find ways to deal with the economic impact of the country’s rapid demographic shift toward an aging population.

Starting this year, Samsung Electronics will employ a “senior track” policy to retain senior employees even after they reach the standard retirement age of 60.

The world’s largest maker of memory chips said the new policy aims to create a culture where accumulated expertise and knowledge are highly valued. Details about the new human resources policy, such as prerequisites for the program, have yet to be unveiled since they were announced in November.

This came in tandem with a fresh human resources strategy to help the company retain the brightest minds in the industry regardless of age, meaning younger employees are also given opportunities to enter management.

Its memory chip rival, world No. 2 SK Hynix, has already adopted the policy, under the so-called “honored engineer” program.

First introduced in 2018, SK hynix‘s program in 2020 produced to the first employee who would be exempt from the retirement age of 60.

Separately, SK hynix also offered jobs at SK hynix University -- the chipmaker’s in-house training institution -- to retiring staff and executives.

These constitute the backbone of SK hynix‘s human resources policy under which “aging engineers with outstanding expertise are not forced to retire,” as stated by SK hynix Vice Chairman Park Jung-ho in a New Year’s speech for 2022.

These policies drew attention, as the government is poised to resume talks to push all Korean companies to retain senior employees as a demographic shift looms in the country, where young population is shrinking faster than ever and the number of seniors is rapidly growing.

According to the Finance Ministry, a new task force will be formed within February to discuss raising company retirement ages. The plan has drawn backlash from businesses, which are concerned about the impact on costs of having to retain their most expensive staff.

Korea is expected to become a superaged society with those aged 65 or older accounting for at least 20 percent of the population by 2025. The ratio stood at 16.5 percent in 2021, data from Statistics Korea showed. Also, two-thirds of those aged 65 or older in Korea were jobless in 2020.

In the meantime, Korea was ranked 198th out of 198 countries in the world in terms of the total fertility rate, staying below 1 for the third consecutive year until 2020.