[EDITORIALS]Many jobs, few workers

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[EDITORIALS]Many jobs, few workers

Manpower shortages at local manufacturing companies, particularly at small and medium businesses, are reaching serious levels. Those companies complain that it is extremely difficult to hire workers, even though the firms hold employment road shows in regional cities and put want ads on bulletin boards at industrial complexes. Reportedly, about 100 jobs are open every day at the Banwol and Sihwa industrial complexes in Gyeonggi province, compared with a daily average of 10 job seekers. Despite the long-awaited upturn in the local economy, manufacturers are frustrated over a lack of workers that hinders production and exports.

According to the results of a recent survey by the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business, the employment outlook of some 400 firms shows there will likely be a 10.7 percent shortage of manpower at small and mid-sized firms during the second half of this year, up 4.3 percent from the first six months. Small businesses with less than 20 employees will likely be in more dire straits, suffering from a 19.3 percent manpower shortage.

At the center of the manpower shortages are Korean workers' chronic avoidance of manufacturing jobs. In addition, these workers shun jobs at small and mid-sized firms because of the relatively low wages, their unwillingness to labor at regionally-based firms and their distorted view of small firms. Another problem is that the industrial trainee programs for foreign workers and a skilled worker training system are not functioning well. Foreign industrial trainees reached the legal quota in November, failing to supply new migrant workers for local firms.

A new industrial structure will bring changes in the manpower demand. But Korea cannot afford to put the manufacturing industry on the back burner. Considering that tough situations for small and mid-sized companies will undermine the manufacturing sector, the government must be quick to draw up measures to address the manpower shortages. Seoul must also overhaul the current system for importing workers in a way that will increase the supply of migrant workers, while preventing them from becoming illegal immigrants. Under the current situation, the government should not hurriedly introduce the five-day workweek.
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