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Work History of the Elderly under Poverty

Work History of the Elderly under Poverty

Suyoung Kim | Seoul National University

Oh, Hye In | Seoul National University


This study aims to trace the labor trajectory of the elderly under poverty and to grasp the dynamic meanings of their poverty and work. Drawing on Mandelbaum’s life history analysis framework, this study conducted in-depth interviews with 11 elderly people, including 5 people who suddenly fell into poverty (dropped poverty) and 6 people who have lived in poverty since childhood (cumulative poverty). This study reveals that the elderly in a seemingly similar economic situation have different labor experiences depending on the context of life history in poverty. First, for the elderly under cumulative poverty, personal events had a greater influence on their poverty, but for the elderly under dropped poverty, the influence of social events such as the IMF financial crisis was relatively greater. In addition, the elderly under dropped poverty tended to undergo diverse changes in work experiences, while the elderly under cumulative poverty, who had suffered deficient family relationships and deprivation of early life opportunities, tended to remain in fringe labor even at a late age. Finally, the elderly under cumulative poverty felt comfortable and liberated in their old age since they finally reached the social security age, eligible for welfare benefits. But, the elderly under dropped poverty felt were not satisfied with their old lives due to the gap between their current and former life standards. Based on these results, this study proposes sophisticated, long-term services for elderly people reflecting their work and life history.


Elderly labor, poor elderly, life history, cumulative poverty, dropped poverty

Korean Journal of Social Welfare Studies

2022, vol.53, no.3, pp. 71-112 (42 pages)

DOI : 10.16999/kasws.2022.53.3.71

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