Employment rate rises but youth still jobless

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Employment rate rises but youth still jobless


The labor market continues to improve along with other economic indicators such as exports, domestic consumption and investments, recent government data show.

The number of workers in the country hit 26.8 million as of May, up 375,000 from the previous year, Statistics Korea figures showed Wednesday, growing by more than 300,000 for the fourth consecutive month.

The employment rate reached 61.3 percent, which is 0.3 percentage points higher than last year and the highest level since 1999 when the government started to compile the data in its current form.

The employment rate for men was 71.7 percent and was 51.3 percent for women.

By sector, the number of workers in the construction sector rose by 162,000, followed by 80,000 new jobs in education and 58,000 positions in real estate and housing rentals.

The number of unemployed dropped 2,000 from a year ago to 1 million. The unemployment rate also dropped 0.1 percentage points year-on-year to 3.6 percent.

Although some market conditions have improved, youth unemployment still remained high at 9.3 percent.

“The number of workers rose in May when compared to the previous year and it was largely due to increased number of temporary workers in the construction sector,” said Kim Ie-han, a director at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance. “The labor market conditions for youth, or especially for those in their 20s, continue to worsen in the country.”

In fact, the number of newly added jobs were mostly among those older than 50. The statistics agency said the number of employees in their 60s rose 278,000, and those in their 50s rose by 140,000.

On the other hand, the number of workers in their 30s dropped 17,000 from a year ago and the those in their 20s fell by 10,000.

“There are more middle-aged people who are looking for new jobs since they tend to retire earlier than the past,” said Sung Jae-min, a researcher at Korea Labor Institute. “Many of them are starting up their own businesses and the higher number of self-employed might be burdensome in the long term.”

The data were released after the Moon Jae-in administration called for a supplementary budget to solve the youth unemployment issue. “We will work on creating more jobs and improve the working condition through various macroeconomic policies such as a supplementary budget,” said Kim.

However, the president plans to create a large number of jobs in the public sector with the additional budget. Critics say it only will create jobs with small salaries, and won’t add quality positions in the private sector.

Among the 86,100 government jobs that will be created with the supplementary budget, 66,000 are in the public sector and half are temporary. This includes jobs for senior citizens, who would earn 270,000 won ($240), up from the current 220,000 won.

“They need to consider whether it is the right way to solve the structural problems in the labor market through temporary measure of supplementary budget,” said Bae Hyeon-kee of the Hana Institute of Finance.

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

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