More jobs for a better tomorrowSouth Korean nationals will elect both legislators and a new president this year. Their vote will change the political landscape and their choice of leadership could determine the future of the country. This is why public interest in, and expectations of, the emerging leadership is so great. The new leadership has many formidable tasks, with job creation one of the top priorities. The country’s economic growth has been stagnating, and social conflicts have been aggravated by the pressures associated with an aging society and increased polarization. Welfare costs are quickly rising along with the fiscal burden on the state, creating even greater need for more jobs. Jobs create income, and only income growth can support an aging society and help ease the disparities in wealth.
But new graduates, who are responsible for the country’s future, are struggling to land stable employment, dealing instead with one rejection letter after another. As such, they are becoming increasingly politicized and warning politicians that their votes will go to those candidates who can provide assurances of future job security.
An economy run by an elite band of conglomerates can no longer be depended on to roll out new job opportunities. Even with staggering export growth, the economy seems able to sustain itself without ramping up hiring. If rising exports do not compel employers to go on recruitment drives, other incubators in the domestic market must be sought out. The service sector, which targets local consumers, can better provide jobs than exporting manufacturers.
The JoongAng Ilbo has been campaigning for a new state policy dubbed “Jobs for Tomorrow,” which is aimed at growing the domestic market to pump out more jobs. Various barriers that are hampering the expansion of the domestic industry must be broken down. A few moves to deregulate are not enough. All red tape must go if authorities want to save the economy and safeguard the country’s future.
And with the growth of East Asia, the timing could not have been better. Seoul is only a two-hour flight away from 41 cities, each with a population of over 1 million people. When peripheral regions are factored in, this puts a market of around 300 million people within local companies’ reach. These opportunities must be grabbed in order to establish more full-time positions for young people.
The next president must provide a firm vision and specific action plans to boost domestic consumption and create jobs, and the public will be watching to see who can rise to the challenge.