Taming youth unemployment
Korea’s youth unemployment rate has hit a new all-time high. According to employment data released by Statistics Korea, the unemployment rate in February among job seekers ages 15 to 29 was registered at 12.5 percent. That’s the highest since June 1999, when “unemployed” was redefined to refer to anyone without a job for at least four weeks.
The first 10 years after graduation is the first time in life a person gets to test his or her capabilities in society. In Korea, 560,000 people in their 20s are without a job. A part-time, minimum-wage position generally attracts more than 10 candidates mere hours after it is first advertised - and those applicants mostly have four-year college degrees. A single day’s work paying 50,000 won ($43) is contested by at least nine other candidates.
But what’s more frustrating than the spike in the jobless rate is the government’s impotence. Government officials casually claimed that the jump was based on seasonal factors. Young people, they said, intentionally aren’t looking for jobs because they’re busy preparing for the civil service exam.
How can we expect the government to come up with a fundamental solution when it continues to make lame excuses rather than admitting to the gravity of this protracted and ever-worsening problem? The best it did was to come up with a makeshift measure, handing out monetary allowances for job seekers as a sort of populist action ahead of the general election in April.
The government must be proactive.
The country’s industrial structure and job market is obviously flawed if it can’t even create part-time jobs for college grads. Jobs are becoming ever more difficult to come by for young people due to the extended retirement age and an aging working population. Structural reform and sweeping deregulation would be the only breakthrough.
The government must actively promote enterprises in promising new industries like artificial intelligence, information and communications technology, biology, tourism and gaming, so that more jobs are available. Instead of makeshift actions, we need real and lasting solutions.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 17, Page 34