Still detached from realityThe Blue House remains isolated from the real world in its perception of the nation’s jobs. It claims that there has been progress, although we are far from it. Jung Tae-ho, the senior presidential secretary on jobs, cited recent data to point to an improvement in job conditions from last year. The year-on-year addition in the number of employed has increased from monthly low of 97,000 last year to 260,000 in February, 250,000 in March, and 170,000 in April. He claimed it is a “dramatic improvement.” He said that job quality has been increased because the number of employees on permanent payroll increased from 300,000 to 400,000 on average.
He also claimed that the youth employment rate has also improved. His remarks are in line with what President Moon Jae-in said in the interview marking the completion of his second year in office. “Our employment increased by 250,000 in February and March each. During the two months, youth hiring in particular picked up dramatically while the unemployment rate fell,” Moon said.
Yet the Blue House’s announcement differs from what people feel, as well as the reality behind the data. The job additions were mostly temporary hires in the public sector through tax spending. Most of the jobs went to the elderly for part-time work. In the meantime, stable jobs that pay for more than 36 hours a week have decreased by 624,000 over the last year, whereas jobs paying for less than 36 hours increased by 802,000.
The claim that jobs for young people have improved is also questionable. The broader youth unemployment rate that covers those between jobs is at a record high of 25.2 percent.
Even the ruling party is concerned about worsening job conditions. During a policy coordination meeting, the Democratic Party said a supplementary budget is needed to bolster exports, investment and jobs.
Inspectors from the International Monetary Fund and Moody’s Investors Service expressed concerns about Korea’s poor job conditions. Both organizations pointed to the sharp increases in the minimum wage for the cause of job losses.
Yet the government remains upbeat. The Blue House said that the job losses last year had been our “unavoidable pains” from the transition in economic structure. It has fallen deeper in self-denial. Jung said, “Our job outlook is hopeful.” He must be deaf to increasing sighs from the people on the job front.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 20, Page 30