Solving the job conundrum

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Solving the job conundrum

The hiring season is back. Applications flooded into large companies to meet the deadline over the weekend and overwhelmed computer systems. Large companies expect the highest-ever competition as they consider an application pool that has grown by 10,000 since last year. We are back to the same dilemma. The number of college graduates grows every year, but companies muddling along in “jobless growth” can no longer accommodate them.

The unemployment rate is a piece of retrospective data on the economy. Last year’s job numbers improved because the economy accelerated at a solid 6.2 percent on-year in 2010. The economic growth slowed to 3.6 percent last year and is expected to stop at around 2.5 percent this year. Due to a slump in domestic demand, the construction and financial sectors account for much of the slowdown in hiring. And companies offering more opportunities to job-seekers without college degrees means fewer positions are available for college graduates. The job market is likely to be challenging for new graduates for some time to come.

We simply cannot overemphasize the importance of jobs. Stable jobs are the best form of social welfare. They can help restore the middle class and place society back on the cycle of growth. We have repeatedly called for actions to boost growth, widen the services market through deregulation, create a corporate-friendly environment and enhance flexibility in union operations.

All the rosy promises of job-sharing and increases in public sector jobs are stop-gap measures. To solve the problem, companies must regain vitality and earn enough to offer decent jobs. Foreign companies should be invited to start or enlarge their Korean business to provide jobs here.

At the same time, we must prevent job opportunities from going elsewhere. Samsung Electronics hired 16,000 people over the last five years at home compared to 67,000 abroad. Hyundai Motor also hired four times more employees overseas than at home. Large companies inevitably have to increase overseas facilities to outsource and keep ahead of global competition. But we may have to re-examine whether or not we are losing our share of jobs because of excessive pay and benefit demands.

Exporters and manufacturers should be encouraged to seek more business at home. Unions should concede to more automation in automobile factories to help raise productivity. Anti-chaebol sentiment also needs to change.

Politicians demand that large companies increase hiring while slapping them with heavy taxes and rules on irregular workers. If companies cut hiring, the economy will sag further. But without their help, we cannot expect to solve the job issue.
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