Moon’s blinkersPresident Moon Jae-in continues to pat himself on the back. In a meeting Monday with his aides at the Blue House, he reiterated that our economy is going in the right direction. He based his optimism on Statistics Korea’s surveys on employment in the month of August and household income in the second quarter. Citing the surveys, Moon stressed that over 450,000 jobs were created in August compared to the same period last year. “That is the biggest increase since the statistics office started to collect related data,” he said.
Moon also underscored that our household incomes increased across the board, pointing to a “meaningful halt” in the declining incomes for the lowest group. He attributed that to the government’s effort to embrace the poor through policy means.
However, we wonder if the president only sees what he wants to. It is hard to deny the improvement in the employment data for August. But if you look deeper, there’s a different story. Among the over 450,000 new jobs created in August, 390,000 were for the people aged 60 and over. In contrast, the number of jobs for those in their 30s and 40s — the backbone of our economy — has decreased for 23 consecutive months. That’s not all. The number of “quality jobs” in the manufacturing sector has shrunk for 17 months in a row. Simply put, jobs were created with taxpayers’ money.
The government can hardly attribute increases in household incomes to its policies. Even though the lowest income group’s revenue stopped diminishing, their disposable income did contract. In terms of disposable income, the gap between the top and bottom brackets is the largest since the government began to gather relevant data. The income gap yawned as a result of sharp reductions in jobs for the lower income group after government-enforced hikes in the minimum wage.
The government must stop bragging. Our economy is losing vitality fast. The government promised to achieve a growth rate of 2.6 to 2.7 percent this year, but it cannot even be sure of 2 percent growth. Coupled with a diplomatic and economic discord with Japan and the U.S.-China trade war, the fear of deflation is deepening. Due to our gloomy economic conditions, rich people and the young generation are considering immigration to other countries in search of better opportunities.
We wonder where the president’s confidence comes from. And we cannot but question where his obstinacy and detachment from reality will lead. We hope he starts listening to more than just a small circle around him.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 17, Page 30