Youth unemployment program ended

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Youth unemployment program ended

The Ministry of Health and Welfare shut down on Thursday the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s program to support unemployed or underemployed young adults with a monthly cash allowance.

“The ministry from here on shuts down Seoul Metropolitan Government’s youth support program,” the Health Ministry said in its press release on Thursday. “All cash handed out to recipients must be taken back.”

On Wednesday, Seoul distributed the first cash allowance to the 2,831 recipients who signed agreements with the government. Each recipient received half a million won ($449).

The payments are part of a five-year program to support unemployed or underemployed young adults, called the Seoul Youth Guarantee. The city set aside some 9 billion won to provide 3,000 recipients with 500,000 won per month for up to six months.

“The Seoul government will file for an injunction on the ministry’s order to the Supreme Court,” said Jun Hyo-kwan, director-general of the city’s Seoul Innovation Bureau. “We will be doing all that we can to continue the program and to ensure that the second month’s allowance is handed out without trouble to the recipients in September.”

If the Supreme Court upholds the injunction, the city government will be able to resume its program until the court decides on a final ruling. The city government said it will not be taking back the cash allowances already distributed.

“The 500,000 won were distributed legally before the ministry issued a corrective order on Wednesday,” Jun added. “The city government has no right, nor a plan, to take them back.”

According to Article 169 of the Local Autonomy Act, in a situation where a local government’s order or disposition is “deemed to harm public interest,” a minister may order the local government to correct it in writing within a specified period, and suspend it if this is not followed.

“The city government’s action is illegal,” said the ministry in its official statement. “According to the Framework Act on Social Security, any social welfare program must be implemented under agreed terms with the ministry. The ministry has not agreed to give out cash to unemployed or underemployed young adults, which is a morally unsound policy.”

Seoul and the ministry have been discussing the youth support program since January, and reached a joint policy resolution in May, according to the city government. But that agreement fell through in June when the ministry said it never approved the program.

“We want to ask the ministry what comes first,” young adults associations and civic groups said in their joint statement Wednesday. “Is a legal clause more important to them than the livelihood of young citizens?”

They added, “We understand that handing out cash does not solve the youth unemployment issue completely, but since the Seoul government policy was implemented after years of discussion with hundreds of young adults, why shouldn’t it be tried out as a pilot project?”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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