The recovery’s dark shadowThe de facto number of people without jobs in Korea has surpassed the 4 million mark. According to Statistics Korea, the number of people who were unemployed totaled 889,000 as of last year. However, including job seekers fresh out of college, those who work less than 18 hours per week in total and those who are not seeking jobs, the actual number is around 4.08 million. Furthermore, the number of those who have given up on employment rose 38.9 percent in 2009, reflecting the fact that unemployment for Koreans is becoming more and more long-term.
The Ministry of Labor announced that around 1.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last year and that they collectively were given a total of 4.12 trillion won ($3.6 billion) - an all-time high since the system was launched back in 1995.
The figures are a reflection of the “employment ice age” or the era of “growth without employment” that the country is faced with. Behind the nation’s fast recovery amid the global financial crisis is a hidden gloomy shadow.
It is only natural that the government has set job creation as its top priority this year. This is also in line with President Lee Myung-bak’s vow to continue his public-friendly policies. These promises are based on the assertion that full economic recovery is not possible without solving unemployment. And the best possible way to face unemployment is to merge the government’s efforts to create jobs and companies’ increased investment. If large-scale conglomerates grow together with partner firms, this will create many more jobs in small to medium-sized companies nationwide.
Unemployment cannot be solved with just one or two policies. The country needs to come up with comprehensive measures for labor management, welfare, industry and education. It is a fact that over the last year, the government has focused on creating more temporary jobs in the public sector. Also, it reduced the tax burdens on companies that employed more people and made efforts to improve short-term solutions including creating a job seeker and employer database.
Now is the time to improve labor-management relations, deregulate and focus on small to medium-sized businesses and the service sector in order to create more jobs. More than any other time, it is crucial for the government and companies to collaborate and coexist. Only then will the country be able to rescue itself from the crisis of 4 million unemployed.