Early pandemic statistics show Korea changing quickly

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Early pandemic statistics show Korea changing quickly

Work Plus Center in Jung District, central Seoul, is crowded with people looking for job opportunities on Nov. 11. [NEWS1]

Work Plus Center in Jung District, central Seoul, is crowded with people looking for job opportunities on Nov. 11. [NEWS1]

 
Koreans are underpaid, stuck at home and awash in trash as the pandemic tests the country, early statistics suggest, while trains and buses are running with fewer passengers.  
 
In a recent report, Statistics Korea detailed major trends in 2020, including changes in job opportunities, consumption patterns and education. Most of the statistics are from very early in the year, but they do provide some indication of a society quickly adjusting to adversity.
 
According to the report, only 50.3 percent of office workers are paid as much as they were before the outbreak, while 26.7 percent experienced a drop in earnings and 14 percent are taking unpaid leave. Roughly 9 percent said they have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic. The answers were collected in May by professor You Myoung-soon of Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Health.
 
A full 38.6 percent of respondents feel they are being treated unfairly in terms of pay, while 32.5 percent are aggrieved about working conditions. Another 12.9 percent of respondents say they are not able to get good information, while 11.2 percent are concerned about the health care they are receiving.
 
Kim Kyung-keun, a professor of education at Korea University, conducted a study on the education sector in April and found students dissatisfied with online classes.
 
Cars are jammed on the Gyeongbu Expressway — connecting Seoul and Busan — near Yongin, Gyeonggi, on Oct. 4, the last day of this year’s Chuseok holiday. [NEWS1]

Cars are jammed on the Gyeongbu Expressway — connecting Seoul and Busan — near Yongin, Gyeonggi, on Oct. 4, the last day of this year’s Chuseok holiday. [NEWS1]

 
Online courses had removed their opportunity to build relationships with their fellow students, some respondents said.
 
According to a survey of teachers working at schools in Gyeonggi, 24.5 percent of elementary school teachers said the lack of socializing and relationship building is the major problem of the current online system. A full 20.5 percent of middle school teachers and 20.1 percent of high school teachers agreed.
 
The Covid-19 pandemic has also brought changes to household waste.
 
According to a study by Lee So-ra, a researcher at Korea Environment Institute, the amount of disposable cups used in the February-to-March period decreased 31 percent compared to same period a year earlier. Although the government temporarily allowed restaurants and cafes to offer plastic cups amid the concern over virus transmission, fewer people actually visited restaurants or cafes.
 
The amount of household waste, on the other hand, increased on year. As more people eat at home and shop online, the amount of household waste during the January-to-March period rose 9.7 percent compared to same period a year earlier.
 
Koreans used expressways more after the virus attack, the report also said.
 
According to analysis by Han Sang-jin, a senior researcher at The Korea Transport Institute, and Justin Chang, a professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Environmental Studies, the traffic volume on expressways has been increasing since the coronavirus outbreak. During the fourth week of June, roughly 140,000 cars used city expressways in Seoul, a 0.9 percent increase on year.
 
Fewer people used public transportation.
 
During the last week of May, the number of people using buses decreased by 26.7 percent on year, while the number of people using subways declined by 26.4 percent on year. In May alone, the number of passengers for KTX dropped 44 percent compared to the same month last year.
 
“People consider their own vehicles as better options versus public transportation in terms of exposure to the virus,” said Han and Chang in the report.
 
BY CHO HYUN-SOOK   [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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