Survey finds young Koreans without hope

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Survey finds young Koreans without hope

Young Koreans in their 20s and 30s are more pessimistic than ever about their future, many of them readily giving up on major milestones in life such as marriage, having children and home ownership as the job market deteriorates and home prices rise.

A multiple-answer survey of nearly 500 people by job portal operator Jobkorea showed on Friday that close to 40 percent of the respondents were willing to forget marriage in their lifetime, while over 33 percent said they would or have already decided to give up on having children. Nearly 30 percent also said they were willing to live without home ownership.

Young people also reported a willingness to forego the less tangible milestones.

More than 26 percent of the respondents said they would or have already decided to give up on their “dreams,” 16 percent on “relationships with the opposite sex” and 15.4 percent on relationships in general, as any spare time is spent preparing for job interviews and tests or working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Data also showed that male respondents (46.3 percent) were more willing to pass up marriage and “dreams” (28 percent), while female respondents were more willing to give up on having children (40.1 percent) and marriage (33.7 percent).

When asked why they were giving up (only one answer allowed), 33.2 percent of respondents said such milestones were “difficult to realistically achieve in today’s society.” Nearly 30 percent said it was because “it is getting harder to get a job,” while 15.4 percent said “it is less burdensome that way.” Nearly 14 percent said they “felt more despondent about future” and “lacked motivation” to achieve those milestones.

The latest government data also showed that more Koreans have decided to forget marriage or having children.

There were 305,507 marriages in 2014, the lowest number since 2004, according to Statistics Korea. People were also getting married later in life, while single-person households are steadily on the rise. The average age of grooms last year was 32.4, while the brides’ was 29.8.

The number of births has also declined. Last year, there were 435,300 births in Korea, the lowest figure since 2005.

“Many young people have decided not to get married, or are getting married much later in life,” said Yoon Yeon-ok, Statistics Korea official.

“Even among married couples, a lot of them are deciding not to have a second child.”

Around 47 percent of the people surveyed blamed “social structure” for their decisions, while 24.3 percent cited “government policies that paid little attention to young people.”

Analysts say more young Koreans are giving up on dreams of a better life as they are coming to believe that hard work is inadequate. Compared with the older generation of Koreans who benefited from robust economic and asset value growth in the years prior to the Asia currency crisis, they also feel disadvantaged.

“Young adults are growing angrier and more discontent as they feel that working hard and being diligent is not enough,” said Oh Chan-ho, an analyst at Sogang University’s Institute of Social Sciences.

Recent Ministry of Strategy and Finance data showed that the March employment rate of the 15 to 29 age group was 40 percent, falling for a third consecutive month. The rate of the 25 to 29 age group was 67.8 percent, down from 68.9 percent in March of last year.

Meanwhile, Korea’s housing market is gaining steam. The country’s leading housing price indicator rose for a 20th consecutive month in April, with annual growth hitting the fastest in nearly three years, data by Kookmin Bank showed.

“Even if you want to get married, have kids, saving enough money to find a decent home to live in just seems like a faraway dream for many of my friends and colleagues,” said Park Jae-min, a 34-year old financial professional.

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