[EDITORIALS]Job Creation for Young Best Policy

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[EDITORIALS]Job Creation for Young Best Policy

Prospective high school and university graduates are experiencing great difficulty finding jobs. Some companies are receiving tens of applications for every opening. Job fairs are packed with job seekers. Unemployment among young adults, including recent college graduates, has grown since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Now the problem has became one of serious social structural distress. The problem is not just a matter of an individual failing to find a job, but a social phenomenon that finds young adults alienated from work and society.

According to the National Statistical Office, the unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 24 stood at 8.6 percent in September, about three times higher than the overall average of 3 percent. The 8.6 percent is lower than the 16 percent unemployment rate for young adults in 1998, but higher than the 5.5 percent recorded in 1995. Some analysts say the unemployment rate has been pushed up by young men returning to civilian life after enlisting in the army to ride out the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

During the four years since 1997, the population of people more than 15 years old has increased by 1.6 million, whereas the number of jobs has increased by only 418,000. And even that is attributed to the increase in part-time jobs of 709,000 as regular jobs decreased by 477,000. When we consider that most of the new work force comprises young adults, we do not have to ask twice how brutal the labor market is for them.

An idled well-educated work force is a national loss and an element that could trigger social instability. What makes the situation more worrisome is that high unemployment among young adults is becoming chronic. Corporations and society are in danger of losing experienced workers in some age groups.

The sluggish economy promises few employment opportunities this year and next year. Addressing the high unemployment rate among young adults cannot be done in a short period of time. But as the situation grows worse, more wisdom is demanded of the government. The government should ease unnecessary regulations to stimulate the economy and expand measures to counter unemployment, such as support for companies hiring college graduates to fill intern positions.

In Korea, the imbalance between supply and demand in work force is one reason for the increase in unemployment. Therefore, the government must improve the educational system so that the liaison between school education and the workplace become stronger. The government must expand vocational training so workers can more easily change jobs. Job seekers need to lower their expectations if they want to work.

But what is most important at this point is the wisdom of seeing that the high unemployment rate among young adults could become chronic, creating serious social problems, and trying to find a solution at a social level.

Since the financial crisis, corporations have focused on overcoming the management crisis, and the labor unions have concentrated on protecting the rights of their workers, all turning a blind eye toward those young adults who are blocked from joining society.

If the labor market obstructs the entry of young workers to protect their vested rights and channel these workers into part-time jobs, we would have an abnormal society. The government, corporations, and labor unions must come up with measures based on the view that job creation is the best welfare policy, exceeding any other social safety net.
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