Employing youth is key

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Employing youth is key

The unemployment rate in 2013 among young people hit 8 percent for the first time in three years.

According to Statistics Korea, Koreans aged 15 to 29 without jobs totaled 331,000, translating into an unemployment rate of 8 percent. The jobless rate in the under-30 age group slipped to 7.5 percent in 2012 from 8.1 percent in 2009. Joblessness in this group stands out because the overall unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage point to 3.1 percent last year from the previous year.

The youth unemployment rate went up sharply because more young people sought jobs and fewer were successful. Hiring among the under-30 group, which has been on a downward trend since 2000, was 3.79 million last year, the lowest since data was first compiled in 1980. Not only did youth hiring fall in relation to the general population, but the actual number of employed among the young hit a 33-year low.

In contrast, hiring among the people aged 50 or older has been on the rise. The overall employment rate has been going up because of increased part-time jobs for seniors. But the job market structure and its balance are worsening.

President Park Geun-hye has a target of achieving 70 percent employment during her term. Without improving youth jobs, however, that goal cannot be accomplished. The key, therefore, is in easing unemployment or boosting jobs for young people.

If young people cannot find decent jobs, there cannot be an overall increase in hiring. It is meaningless to gloat over better jobs data that primarily owes its improvement to temporary low-paying jobs for retired people.

Jobs for the youth must come from new corporate investment and start-ups. In announcing a three-year outline to innovate the economy, the government pledged radical deregulation to promote corporate investment and start-ups. We sincerely hope it follows through on its promise.

The jobs data underscores why the young today are so angry and frustrated.
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