Helping the poor find real jobs
Korea today faces a wide range of economic and social problems, but it’s about time we shifted our focus to a fundamental problem. It has to do with the working poor: those who either are unable to get a job, or when they do have a job, can’t get out of poverty. Their rising numbers threaten the survival of older people and the disabled that they support. Children of the working poor live in deprivation; such poverty is handed down through the generations, which in turn results in more poverty across the nation.
To solve this problem, a practical approach is needed. While it may be feasible to create a huge number of quality jobs to eliminate income disparity and poverty at once, it remains to be seen whether it actually solves the real issue. Looking at changes in the Korean labor market over the past 10 years, one must wonder just how many quality jobs we can generate, and just how many of the unemployed can actually reenter the work force. The problem of the working poor can’t be resolved with only an optimistic approach.
In order to promote economic independence, the focus should be on creating an environment where the poor can have opportunities for employment. If they can’t earn enough by working, they must receive living expenses and other social services. The unemployed must be given job training for other opportunities. All of these must be designed so the working poor will be encouraged and motivated to find work. Otherwise, the plan might backfire. The self-support program, which has been in place for a few years, is an example. Rather than providing job opportunities, the program ended up making the poor rely on welfare.
The government must revise the program and create an environment conducive to the working poor finding jobs. It must ensure that its guarantee of a certain amount of income does not sidetrack the working poor from becoming self-reliant. Human resources development and job link programs need a major overhaul so the working poor can become economically independent through employment. By linking the program with social services policy, the government must provide stable job opportunities to the unemployed poor.
No Dae-myung, researcher,
Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs