Get real on unemployment

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Get real on unemployment

Korea’s official unemployment rate last year stood at 3.4 percent. The figure would draw envy from governments around the world battling various problems from increasing joblessness against a backdrop of a slowdown in the global economy.

But the domestic data do not reflect the entire picture of the workforce. There are a huge number of people who are not currently working even though they are capable and wish to find jobs or who are settling for part-time work while searching for better and more secure jobs.

The former group is referred to as non-economic labor force and is excluded from the unemployment data, while the latter group is counted as employed. These people are, therefore, excluded from the unemployment figure.

The government has separate unofficial data that count these “hidden” jobless people and this number came around to 1.79 million last year.

When they are included, the country’s unemployment rate would jump to 7 percent. This is why the government’s official data - half of the reality - do not come across as worrying.

The government does not release the unofficial data, saying they are not reliable and can impair the credibility of the official statistics. But honestly speaking, the government fears a public and political backlash if the real unemployment figures are released.

That is not only irresponsible but also poor judgment. The people without jobs would hardly get comfort from government’s employment data.

Transparency in data could heighten credibility and awareness. The United States, Canada, and Australia have been publicizing auxiliary jobless figures when releasing their unemployment data.

Government policies cannot be pursued without public support. The same goes for policies to spur jobs. Hiding unfavorable data is like burying one’s head in the sand.

Such a government cannot win support from the public. The government should share all the necessary unofficial data it reports to senior officials to the public.

The more real data it gives to the public, the more confidence it can get in return.

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