[Viewpoint] The job shunners

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[Viewpoint] The job shunners

Jobs increased by 500,000 in October from the previous year and by 240,000 from the previous month. The unemployment rate was 2.9 percent, hovering below 3 percent for the first time in nine years. Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan came under fire for describing the statistics as an employment jackpot.

The stats seemed an improvement on the surface, but not when you looked into them. The increases in jobs came from temporary, low-paying jobs among workers in their 50s and 60s. The employment rate remained unchanged for people in their 20s and actually decreased for those in their 30s.

Decent-paying jobs are hard to come by. Few expect them to fall from the sky anymore. We can no longer afford to value our worth in jobs. Mature people know how tough life can be and are able to be practical. But people in their 20s and 30s are not ready to compromise for any job. They don’t want to work in minor, satellite operations of large companies. Even if companies are headquartered in the capital, young people avoid them if they are small or midsized enterprises. They say it’s a jungle out there. But they aren’t that desperate.

Everyone knows a Benz is an excellent car. But not everyone can drive one. The owner has to be someone who can afford it. Most other people settle for less expensive cars. Many buy compact cars. Some drive more luxurious sports cars.

We all live according to our means and abilities. Samsung Electronics is the country’s top enterprise. Anyone would want to work for it. But an exclusive few are hired by Samsung after tough exams and interviews. Most graduates look for less demanding workplaces. If they cannot get into large companies, they try midsized ones. Small companies should be their next stop. But that’s where they draw the line. They prefer to stay idle.

Some people cannot afford a car, and some choose not to drive one. In a country like ours with excellent public transportation, people can get by without a car. Some individuals intentionally choose not to contribute to pollution and traffic, increasing the well-being of the country.

But physically able and intelligent, capable youths who choose to be idle over having constructive jobs are a burden to society and the nation. They are frittering away their youth. They argue they have nowhere else to go.

They protest that they can’t settle for any job with their hard-earned college degrees. But who said a college degree ensures a job? If they cannot get into their first choice, they must settle for less. But most think small companies are beyond the pale.

Academic inflation and the hiring culture of our society are the reason many shun mid and small-sized enterprises. Advanced societies like the United States recruit employees based on career experience and references. Experience is usually the top factor in recruitment.

Our society hires people through competitive recruitment practices. Companies are increasing their hires of experienced workers, but they can be treated as outsiders at their new workplaces. People are rarely scouted from small companies to large ones. When they are, large companies are criticized for stealing talent.

Part-time workers now number more than 6 million. Employees take part-time jobs because work is hard to get. But midsized and small companies have trouble hiring employees even for permanent jobs. They have to recruit foreigners. They come from China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Indians and Filipinos are preferred in jobs that require English.

Yet small companies still want employees. According to a government survey of 30,000 companies with more than five employees, 114,400 could not fill vacancies in the first half of the year, up from 4,000 in the same period of last year. Difficulties in finding employees were most severe in companies with less than 300 workers.

Not all people can own homes and afford luxury cars. They live in rented homes and drive cheaper cars. But such common sense does not exist among job seekers in their 20s and 30s. They insist on luxury homes, good cars and prestigious jobs. Young people need to overcome such an unreasonable attitude.

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

by Shim Shang-bok
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