Employment in S. Korea continues to be rocky
Robert Vasquez, March 14, 2019, 9:21 a.m.
The number of people in employment rose by 260,000 in February on-year, putting a temporary stop to growing unemployment.
But most of the new jobs were temporary, low-paid jobs for the elderly the government will pay with tax money, while employment among the most active working group in their 30s and 40s plunged.
According to Statistics Korea on Wednesday, 26.34 million people were in employment in February this year, up 263,000 from a year ago and the biggest rise since January last year.
But a closer look tells a different story. The number of employed people over 60 rose by a whopping 397,000, the biggest rise since statistics began in 1982. The reason is that the government created a lot of temporary public-sector jobs like park attendants and janitors and implemented the scheme in February rather than March, as is usual.
The government hiked the budget for the scheme from W634.9 billion to W821.9 billion, and increased eligible participants from 510,000 last year to 610,000 this year (US$1=W1,133).
These jobs usually pay W300,000 a month for two or three hours of work a day.
On the other hand, employment among people in their 30s and 40s plummeted by 115,000 and 128,000. Based on February figures, that is the largest decrease since 2009 for those in their 30s and since 1991 for those in their 40s.
The government created more temporary part-time jobs, resulting in an increase of 314,000 people working fewer than 17 hours per week, and 437,000 people working between 18 and 35 hours per week.
But the number of people in full-time jobs working 36 hours or more declined by an alarming 443,000.
The government had been blaming anything from the weather to changes in the population structure for the ongoing job crisis. But buoyed by the latest statistics, a government spokesman said, "Employment statistics have improved greatly, and the economic activity rate, which shows the vitality of job market, also went up."