Number of long-term job seekers on the rise

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Number of long-term job seekers on the rise

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Job seekers scan a bulletin board at a job fair held at COEX in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, on Wednesday. There were 19 financial institutions and 261 companies participating in the event co-hosted by the Financial Services Commission. [NEWSIS]

Last month, a 28-year-old student surnamed Chang did not attend his college graduation ceremony at Yonsei University, one of the most prestigious schools in Korea, even though his name was on the list of graduates.

Chang was technically done with his studies two years ago, but he has postponed his official graduation several times as he continues to hunt for a job.

The college student believes submitting his resume with the status of “degree candidate” is more advantageous on job applications than introducing himself as “unemployed,” even though he pays nearly 500,000 won ($446) each semester to postpone receiving his degree. His situation is representative of many older students putting off graduation to look for work.

According to Statistics Korea figures released Wednesday, the number of Koreans who have been unemployed for more than six months rose 51.7 percent year on year, or 62,000 people, to 182,000 last month.

The increase is a record high since 1999, when the government began compiling the data in its current form. The figure of 182,000 also marks the highest since August 1999, when the country saw 274,000 unemployed after the Asian financial crisis.

The number of those unemployed for more than six months has grown by around 10,000 to 20,000 every month since 2014, but the increase has been accelerating this year. In July, the figure rose by 51,000.

Those looking for work for more than six months now account for 18.2 percent of the total number of people unemployed, also the highest since 1999.

One of the major problems facing job seekers is that Korean companies are less interested in hiring recent graduates and prefer recruits with experience.

According to survey results released by job website Saramin on Wednesday, 69.3 percent of 215 major companies said they plan to hire someone with career experience rather than those who recently graduated or never had jobs before.

Companies said they believe new hires with experience will be able to immediately work in the field and that their skills have been verified to a certain level.

“Companies are tightening their budget as the economy slows in Korea, and they prefer people with experience as they believe it will cost them less to train them,” Saramin said.

“However, our survey showed that companies looking for experienced workers also had difficulty finding them, as there are not many people with the experience that they want and some applicants lie about their past experiences as well.”

The increase in the number of long-term unemployed follows the downward trend of the labor market in general.

A Statistics Korea report released earlier this month showed that the overall unemployment rate, including those unemployed for less than six months, rose 0.2 percentage points year on year to 3.6 percent last month, and the figure for those ages 15 to 29 rose 1.3 percentage points to 9.3 percent during the same period.

Overall employment was dragged down mainly due to the ongoing restructuring of the shipping and shipbuilding industries.

The unemployment rate in the southern port city of Ulsan rose 1.2 percentage points year on year to 4 percent last month, and the figure for South Gyeongsang rose 1.6 percentage points to 3.7 percent.


BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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