An inconvenient truth

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An inconvenient truth

Statistics Korea announced Wednesday that the number of newly hired people in 2014 showed the biggest surge since 2002. But that positive news doesn’t do a thing for the army of job seekers, particularly among our young people. A deeper look at the statistics provides more gloomy news than bright because it shows that the structure and quality of employment have worsened in the country.

The jobless rate of the younger generation between the ages of 15 and 29 was the highest in our modern history. Those who gave up on finding jobs also increased by a whopping 129 percent compared to a year earlier. If you add those who attend private academies after graduation to help find jobs or those who willingly delay graduation to avoid having to get a job, the number of young people who are basically unemployed skyrockets. The Korea Labor Institute, a government think tank, has come up with the analysis that the jobless rate among fresh college graduates - a key indicator for youth unemployment - hovers around 40 percent, an even higher figure than the government’s official jobless rate for the young.

One out of five newly hired person gets a job on a contract basis with less than a year of employment guaranteed. That suggests a stark new reality for the young generation. They will have to maintain unstable lives even after they start working, just like the painful existence of the protagonist in the popular TV drama “Misaeng” (An Incomplete Life). The share of people who got jobs on a contract basis nearly doubled from 11.2 percent in 2008.

The Park Geun-hye administration aims to achieve an overall employment rate of 70 percent. Taking the wave of retiring baby-boomers into account, the government needs to increase the number of jobs before anything else. But it must not concentrate on enlarging the number of jobs through slights of hand. The government must exert effort to explain the “inconvenient truth” of our current situation as well. Because large companies have faced a limit in their capacity to hire new people under a prolonged economic slowdown, the administration must do its best to increase jobs for our youth in startup businesses and small and midsize firms.

The government must also upgrade the quality of jobs for the young generation. Under the current labor structure, those who are hired on a contract basis have very serious difficulty transferring to full-time salaried jobs. Many of the young generation are struggling to survive because they can’t find jobs at all. If they lose hope, our economy has no future. The government must devise substantial measures way beyond the illusory magic of statistics.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 15, Page 30

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