Strange job dataThe number of the employed has been increasing for seven straight months. According to the September job data released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday, payroll increased 671,000 from a year-ago period. The addition is the largest in more than seven years. Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Hong Nam-ki declared that our job conditions have neared the pre-Covid-19 level, or before February last year.
From headline numbers, Korea’s job situation looks upbeat. But the details tell otherwise. The number of unemployed, jobless rate and the number of temporarily out-of-work have all decreased. But job quality and youth job conditions still remain dismal. In September, the employed increased across all ages except for those in their 30s. The increase was the largest among people in their 60s and 20s. They have most benefited from government-created jobs. But the job programs are temporary and will go defunct once budget runs out.
Jobs for the young and long-term security are still lacking. The number of self-employed with paid hires decreased by 48,000 last month. The category has been in a decline streak for the longest-ever period of 34 months. Opportunities for young people looking for their first work have disappeared. The wholesale and retail category and manufacturing with job security also continue to lose jobs. Jobs have increased through various incentives and support amid the protracted Covid-19 environment. But the job market remains unstable.
Job prospects for university graduates also remain murky. According to a survey by the Korea Economic Research Institute on students in their junior and senior years at four-year universities and 2,713 graduates, 65.3 percent answered they have given up on finding a job. Only 9.6 percent are “eagerly” looking for a job. Humanities majors say they cannot find a job even after building credentials in IT skills. They cannot compete with math, science and engineering majors or experienced workers.
A steep rise in the minimum wage and pressure to convert irregular workers to permanent employees have also dampened hiring. The government must ease regulations and reform the rigid labor market to increase job opportunities for the young. The government promised to prioritize jobs, but it has not done enough to solve the youth job problem. It must not hide behind misleading data.