[Viewpoint]Jobs for university students

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[Viewpoint]Jobs for university students

My son is a university student and had a part-time job during summer vacation.
He worked as a kitchen assistant at a Western restaurant in a department store near my house.
From daytime till late in the evening, he worked hard making salads, baking cookies, peeling kiwis and washing dishes.
During busy hours in the afternoon, he didn’t even have time for a lunch break. He could only have lunch after 4 p.m.
He said he had a terrible time when one of the kitchen employees went on a holiday, because the employer did not make up for the loss of manpower.
I grew especially upset when I saw him return home with a burn from the cooking equipment on his hand, but I refrained from forcing him to quit the job because I thought it could be a good experience for him. It wasn’t.
He earned 3,200 won ($3.40) an hour. The restaurant management exploited temporary workers despite a government mandated minimum wage of 3,480 won an hour. They may have reduced his pay because he was a trainee.
Now I regret allowing him to work there.
After around a month and 10 days’ work at the restaurant, he made 1.1 million won and said, “I can understand why temporary workers stage protest rallies.”
Although they earn less than the minimum wage, many university students experienced difficulty finding a part-time job last summer.
They even recently coined a new word, “88-man won ($936) generation.” The term hints at the low salary level of irregular workers in their 20s.
There are some who claim that people in their 40s and 50s are exploiting the wages of those in their 20s.
There are also people who point out that the post-386 generation, or those born after the 1960s, have strong antagonism toward the 386 generation, which they think is responsible for current economic difficulties and the high unemployment rate.
Let’s talk for a moment about the “magnified employment rate.”
The rate is calculated by dividing the number of workers that businesses need by the number of job seekers.
Last year in Korea, the magnified employment rate of university graduates was 0.25. It means that four university graduates competed for one job.
In Japan, the situation is completely the opposite.
The rate for those who will graduate from university next year is 2.14. Job opportunities abound in Japan.
Regardless of business type, whether a restaurant or a super- market, the business owners cry out that there won’t be customers if they don’t cut prices drastically.
It has been a long time since they sold a rice roll with dried laver for 1,000 won and a roasted pork dish for 3,000 won.
Until a few years ago, Japan was in a similar situation.
In 2003, the average wage for a part-time job was 898 yen ($7.74) per hour, but it has gone up to 980 yen because of the labor shortage.
McDonald’s in Japan managed to survive by cutting prices drastically when the Japanese economy was in a depression.
But they succeeded by raising prices of 60 percent of their menu items after improving their quality in May of last year.
It is even symbolic that the Goodwill Group, which flourished on the tide of economic depression since it opened in 1995, is in a business downturn nowadays.
The group, which mainly provides temporary workers to small companies and attends to aged people, has made some money so far.
When it started business, the number of job seekers registered with the Goodwill Group was around 1,800, but they say that the number has grown to 2.78 million now. What rapid growth that is.
As business enters a booming stage and wages go up, however, the group has started to stagger.
It has recorded a deficit of 30 billion yen in the first half of this year.
What is worse is that a lawsuit is pending against the group on charges of exploiting the wages of students employed as part-time workers, according to news reports in the July 16 and Aug. 24 issues of the Asahi Shimbun.
In Korea, the number of workers who applied for unemployment allowance reached a high, exceeding 369,000 in the first half of this year.
It may be natural that university students who experience difficulty while finding a part-time job while in school are eager to obtain stable jobs as public servants, teachers or employees at a public enterprise.
Government offices and public enterprises are important and worthwhile targets for work seekers, but such high zeal for employment at them is certainly not a healthy sign.
On this point, too, Japan is at the other end of the spectrum.
Almost all local autonomous organizations are on alert because applicants for teaching jobs at local schools are decreasing.
Some local governments compete for teachers by opening the jobs in their area to applicants in other local provinces.
For some years, the starting pay of small- and medium-sized businesses in Japan has been higher than that of big businesses.
They pay more to attract talented people.
This is the reason why I dislike people who have no fear of wasting tax money.
They are the ones who have never made money with their own hands yet go around shouting about democracy and peace whenever they open their mouths.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun
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