[EDITORIALS]Quality of employment countsIt’s being said that the economy is showing signs of recovery, but the unemployment situation is not getting any better. According to the National Statistical Office, the unemployment rate for March declined 0.1 percentage point from the month before to 3.9 percent.
Han Duk-soo, the finance minister and deputy prime minister, claimed, that the employment situation has improved compared to January and February, but the unemployment rate is the highest in four years for March. While the unemployment rate for youths might have dropped from the month before, it is still over 8 percent.
What’s more serious is that while the total unemployment rate is not dropping, the quality of employment is getting worse. The manufacturing sector employed 35,000 fewer workers in March than in previous years, while the service sector employed 371,000 more. This means that the decrease of the unemployment rate was due to the increase in jobs in the service sector, jobs that usually pay less and are highly unstable. The increase in employment has appeared in such categories as convenience stores, public bathhouses, barbershops and restaurants, which have comparatively low wages and minimal job security.
The finance minister explained that the shift in employment from manufacturing to services was an accompanying sign to the overall trend of the economy, as it relies more and more on services. However, without improving the quality of jobs in the service sector, an increase of numbers won’t have much significance.
As an indicator of this, the number of “semi-employed” people, people without stable jobs, is on the rise. According to the National Statistical Office, 982,000 employees worked fewer than 18 hours a week in the first quarter and 1,144,000 people had jobs that gave them 18 to 26 hours of work a week. This means that there are some 2,126,000 “semi-employed” workers who work less than five hours a day.
This is a 35-percent increase compared to the year 2000. Individuals employed in such a form find it hard to earn enough money for their living needs, and find it difficult to find long-term work as well.
The final indicator of an economic recovery is the employment situation. While lowering the unemployment rate is an undeniable goal, the policy should focus more on how to create decent jobs.