Finding hope in better ties
It is sad and unsettling to see the frustration and disappointment of job applicants. They are young people in their 20s and 30s, who should be given a chance to explore their dreams at work. But the young jobless are struggling with anxiety and worries for the future. Their parents are tormented as well. Having supported them through high school and college, they must have thought that their children were set for stable lives. But another challenge was waiting. The parents have already retired or are expected to retire soon. They are also worried about their children’s marriages. Being a parent in Korea is getting harder and harder.
A few days ago, a doctoral candidate who is to receive a Ph.D. from Korea University in August consulted me about the reality of not being able to find a decent job even with a degree.
“My wife is not aware of the harsh reality and is so happy that my degree will bring great opportunities. I don’t know what to tell her.”
It is a sad portrayal of young Koreans in 2015.
Youth unemployment has long been a social issue, and we are getting accustomed to the seriousness of it. The government is rolling out various measures to attain a 70 percent employment rate, but it is just adding nice packaging to the quagmire of low growth the Korean economy is trapped in. In the aftermath of the MERS outbreak and the six consecutive months of decreasing exports, the Korean economy is in jeopardy with a two percent growth rate. The government announced a 22 trillion won ($19 billion) stimulus package, including the supplementary budget. However, just as former Finance Minister Kang Bong-kyun stated, it is doubtful whether this fiscal expansion will be able to push the growth rate to the three percent level.
A more serious problem would occur if the low-growth tendency continues without a break. While the economy can barely withstand low growth, the trouble would spread if it continues for five years. Youth unemployment and retirement are likely to become full-blown social problems. When people in their 40s and 50s graduated from college, they didn’t have to worry much about finding a job. Some even got offers from multiple companies. In retrospect, those were the good old days. And the good old days were the fruits of the endeavors from the older generation, now in their 70s and 80s, combined with external factors. But those who inherited the comfort and joy are handing over a legacy of low growth to the younger generation.
Considering domestic and international circumstances, the only breakthrough in sluggish economic growth would be North Korea. The only way to get ahead of China is economic cooperation with the North. On July 15, the Federation of Korean Industries proposed five new principles of inter-Korean economic exchange, suggesting the desperation of companies. There have been reports that some conglomerates may suffer trillions of won in losses in the second half of this year. We need to go beyond assistance and sanctions, and toward jobs and opportunities for the young generation in the future.
The author is a researcher at the Unification Research Institute, JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 20, Page 30
by KO SOO-SUK