[Viewpoint] Where to turn when the market fails

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[Viewpoint] Where to turn when the market fails

We are in an emergency situation regarding creation of new jobs. Some 3.5 million people are currently unemployed due to the stagnant economy. There is even a prediction that more than 400,000 people will lose their jobs in addition to this. It is only natural for the government to make job creation its top policy priority.

As a solution, Seoul has settled on job-sharing and an expansion of the internship system. However, these are only short-term measures.

The side effects of job-sharing - a reduction in the pay of low-income workers without a reduction in their work hours - are already making themselves felt. Interns are treated as strangers wandering around in the workplace. Such government policies are far from helping to strengthen corporate competitiveness.

Also, they will not contribute to employment expansion. Companies without a sense of social responsibility still consider jobs from a market perspective.

In order to overcome the current crisis, therefore, solutions must come from somewhere other than the market or the government. Both of these avenues have already proven to be failures.

There is a third area, outside the government and the market, which is known as the third sector. The is not a place where people pursue profit or economic gain like in the market; nor is it a place where they profess to want only public benefit or political satisfaction. Nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental organizations are major examples of third-sector firms, since they fill in for the limitations of the government and the market.

The dual nature of the third sector and its ability to mediate between the market and the government gives it an advantage in solving problems created in this age of contradictions.

Third-sector workers are ready and willing to accept low wages. They seek to reward themselves, in compensation for financial loss, with the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes with contributing to society. Therefore, employment in the third sector is different from the polarizing employment opportunities of big business and from passive social civil rights protections that waste national funds in the name of the public interest.

Experience gained in the third sector can be a big help to developing new networks, knowledge and insights. And another attractive point of the third sector is that once a worker returns to the market or the government, he will return with very competitive skills.

In a recent notice for recruitment of new civil servants, the Seoul city government added that applicants with experience in the environmental movement are preferred. This example shows how useful experience gained in the third sector can be in government.The third sector contributes to society by stimulating a spirit of social sacrifice and voluntary contribution that the market or the government sometimes lack.

It is also a reservoir of surplus workers that temporarily hires the unemployed and then supplies them to the market or the government when there is a need. It is a training center that nurtures workers with skills and experience necessary to work in the market and the government in a new age.

Third-sector employment in Korea, excluding in agriculture, is estimated to be around 3 to 5 percent. It is known to be around 16 percent in the United States. Employment in the third sector is high in all developed countries.

We must see the third sector as a “blue ocean” of new jobs, and turn our eyes to it. Let’s focus not only on civic, welfare and public organizations, but also on providing social services and making profits simultaneously by employing lower-income families and creating jobs in the nonprofit world such as associations, foundations and self-supporting communities.

We should follow the lead of President Barack Obama of the United States, who devoted himself to third-sector movements for the poor in his early career.

*The third sector of nonprofit and other groups can help alleviate job loss in Korea.

By Park Jai-chang
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