Most vulnerable hit hardest as positions vanish

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Most vulnerable hit hardest as positions vanish


Workers at a construction site in Seoul. Many of the people taking on this sort of employment are hired day-to-day, and the total numbers have been shrinking rapidly. [NEWS1]

The economically vulnerable were the most affected in the latest round of job losses, especially laborers working in positions that require no specific skills.

The number of contract jobs and day-to-day hires also continues to shrink.

The minimum wage hike, which was supposed to improve the livelihoods of the economically vulnerable, has so far created challenges for those most in need of work.

Last month, the number of people in basic-labor jobs totaled 3.56 million, 93,000 fewer than in the same month a year ago, according to Statistics Korea. This was the biggest drop since the government began collecting the relevant data in 2013.

The number of people occupying such jobs has fallen in each of the seven months since April, when there were 19,000 fewer jobs than the year before. The situation has only become more dire over time. In August, 50,000 basic-labor jobs were lost compared to the same period a year earlier. The following month, the number was down 84,000 year-on-year.

The category includes construction, gas stations and delivery work.

Last month, the number of people working in “quality” jobs increased. Office jobs were up 117,000 in October compared to the same month a year earlier. Management positions jumped 66,000.

Regular-employee job numbers were up 350,000 compared to a year ago, whereas in the temporary job category - which includes those hired for less than a year - the total was down 138,000. Day-to-day employment, which includes employment lasting less than a month, fell 13,000.

Temporary job numbers have been on the decline for 26 consecutive months, since Sept. 2016, while day-to-day hiring has been falling for 12 consecutive months, since last November.

In the temporary job category, the year-on-year jobs losses have been more than 100,000 since May.

“While economic sluggishness has had an influence, the hike in the minimum wage had a direct impact on these low-paying jobs,” said Sung Tae-yoon, a Yonsei University economics professor. “Basic-labor jobs, which employ many of the most vulnerable, are disappearing rapidly.”

In meeting with reporters on Nov. 9, Finance Minister nominee Hong Nam-ki hinted that the government has no plans to change the overall policy regarding the minimum wage.

“I think that the government has already adjusted the speed in implementing the minimum wage hike since President Moon [Jae-in] mentioned that it would be difficult to keep his campaign promise,” Hong told reporters.

During the 2017 presidential race, President Moon promised to raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won ($8.88) per hour by 2020. Following the 16 percent increase in 2018, the minimum wage is set to increase 10.9 percent to 8,350 won next year.

The government has been criticized for ignoring the need for major policy changes, relying instead on temporary measures in trying to solve the current job crisis, such as by increasing the number of public servants.

According to Bank of Korea, the public administration and national defense-related economy grew 3.7 percent in the third quarter compared to a year ago. This is the sharpest growth since the 4 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The bank added that the public administration and national defense economy grew largely because of hiring in the public sector.

The government plans to hire 174,000 additional public employees and create 59,000 temporary positions in the public sector, such as internships, through 2022.

“Increasing jobs only in the public sector will not turn around the worsening job situation,” said Pyo Hak-gil, a Seoul National University honorary professor of economics. The government “needs to focus on helping the private sector increase investment and jobs.”

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