Officials unveil plans for 17,000 jobs this quarterThe government has announced measures to boost the labor market as a weak manufacturing sector is taking its toll on the market.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said Wednesday that it will hire 27 percent, or 17,000 people, that it has planned to hire for this year just in the first quarter, while allocating 33.5 percent of the first-quarter budget for jobs.
Additionally, the government will hold 140 job fairs throughout the year and hire 12,000 from the events, 2,000 more people than they had previously planned.
“We will focus on creating more jobs this year as the labor market continues to be difficult,” said Yoo Il-ho, deputy prime minister of economics and minister of strategy and finance. “The government will execute the budget for the job market as early as possible and will give more financial supports to start-ups.”
The Finance Ministry said it backed 160 start-ups last year but will expand the number to 1,000 this year.
Despite plans to create jobs, local economic indicators remain weak.
The number of unemployed surpassed 1 million for the first time last year and the jobless rate for people age 15 to 29 reached 9.8 percent in 2016, Statistics Korea said.
To make matters worse, the government has recently lowered the outlook for economic growth for this year from 3 percent to 2.6 percent. The number of employees in the manufacturing sector declined for the first time last year. Conditions are expected to remain sluggish this year due to the ongoing corporate restructuring.
“It appears that this year will be another tough year for Korea when it comes to the economy,” said Sung Tae-yoon, an economics professor at Yonsei University. “There is a presidential election coming up this year which tends to have companies stay away from long-term investment. There is a high chance of the sluggish labor market to continue for a quite period of time.”
Large companies also plan to hire fewer people this year. Data showed that the companies with more than 300 employees hired 33,000 people during the fourth quarter of 2015 through the first quarter of 2016, but hiring is projected to drop 8.8 percent to 30,000 this year.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also said it will spend 240 billion won ($206 million) this year to help the shipbuilding industry and to develop new industries that will replace some of the laid off workers. The government said it will give more financial support to companies conducting research and development projects and those who change their business lines from the shipbuilding to others.
The Trade Ministry said the economic situation of areas where the shipbuilding businesses are concentrated has weakened compared to other places. Exports from the five cities and provinces that have many shipbuilding businesses, including South Gyeongsang and Ulsan, dropped 9.4 percent year on year in November, while exports for the whole nation increased by 2.5 percent in the same period.
BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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