Youth unemployment subsidy to be increased

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Youth unemployment subsidy to be increased

The Seoul city government will support unemployed and underemployed youth in the city next year, including by expanding the number of its youth unemployment subsidy recipients by 2,000, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon announced on Monday.

“The Seoul Metropolitan Government will expand its funding for the struggling youth from nearly 90 billion to 180 billion won ($150 million) next year,” Park said in a press briefing at City Hall.

Included in the 180 billion won budget is the expansion of the controversial youth subsidy program. The city government will be extending the budget for the youth subsidy from 9 billion won to 15 billion won.

“In the coming year, 5,000 will receive the subsidy,” said Jun Hyo-kwan, director-general of the city’s Seoul Innovation Bureau. “Even though the program is mired in a legal suit, we have reasons to be hopeful because we received hints and signs in unofficial contacts with the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Employment and Labor that the youth subsidy program will be resumed in the coming year.”

The controversial youth subsidy program has been entangled in a legal battle with the Health Ministry ever since the ministry shut it down in August, within a day of the city government’s distribution of monthly cash allowances of 500,000 won each to 2,831 unemployed or underemployed young adults in the city, aged between 19 and 29.

The Health Ministry took issue with the fact that the city government was handing out cash to recipients, whereby the government cannot check where exactly the money is being used.

“We are reviewing other options,” Jun said, “like handing out check cards that are systematically barred from use for entertainment.”

The youth subsidy program was also largely criticized for providing allowances to recipients, some of whom turned out to come from affluent families and backgrounds.

“The city government had selected recipients by looking at how long they were unemployed and their income,” Jun said. “Some people from affluent backgrounds were selected because their length of unemployment was long. The new selection criteria will make sure people of affluent backgrounds are ruled out.”

It will also expand the number of participants in the Youth New Deal, where young adults in the city struggling to find a job are hired on at the Seoul city government and its affiliated organizations. The program, which was open to some 2,000 young adults, will be open to 5,500 next year.

The selected participants will be paid 8,200 won an hour.

In other programs planned for next year, the city government will spend some 2 billion won to help students pay back their student loans and some 46.5 billion won to expand living spaces for young adults in Seoul. Real estate agencies representing a total of 20,350 apartments signed contracts with the city government to rent out apartments to young adults first.

“According to surveys this year, it was said that some 87 percent of young Koreans wish to leave the country because ‘the best that they can get out of trying hard in Korea is a temporary position at a company or a poor wage as a regular employee,’” Jun said. “This needs to change, and the Seoul city government will do all it can in the coming year to provide the time, space and opportunities to the young in need.”

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

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