Behind the employment numbers

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Behind the employment numbers

The number of employed Koreans increased by more than 400,000 last month, the largest increase in the past 11 months, according to Statistics Korea’s August job data. The number of people with jobs reached 25.29 million last month, a gain of 432,000 from the same month a year ago. The government, aiming for a goal of a 70 percent employment rate, will probably beam at the news.

The employment rate edged up 0.3 percent from a year ago, to 60 percent in August, but it is too early to conclude that the August growth indicates a real improvement in the job market. Last month’s gain came mostly from a seasonal increase in part-time work and temporary hiring in the public and administrative sectors, rather than an increase in growth in quality jobs.

Hiring in transportation, lodging, and restaurant businesses during the peak summer season and help in the farming and fisheries sectors surged. The government also offered temporary jobs in the public and administrative sectors in July and August through budgetary spending. Those jobs cannot be considered decently-paid or secure. They are mostly temporary and pay poorly. The jobs mostly went to retired people in their 50s and 60s. The job increase can hardly be called a comfort and a signal of a recovery in the economy.

Hiring of people in their 20s and 30s has, if anything, only worsened. In August, jobs for people in their 20s and 30s shrank by 36,000 and 23,000 respectively. Young people cannot seem to find decent jobs, and our seniors are settling for low-paying, part-time work. What authorities must look at is the quality of the jobs that are being created, not just the numbers.

Meaningful job growth can only come from economic recovery and increased corporate investment. The government must concentrate on generating new growth engines and encouraging companies to invest and add employees. It must come to an awareness that setting a goal just in numbers does not really increase jobs or ensure job security.

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