Some 710,000 jobs were lost over the past four years among people in their 30s and 40s, who form the backbone of Korea’s economy. Jobs dwindled from 12.42 million in 2017, when President Moon Jae-in took office, to 11.71 million last year. That means the employment rate in that age group fell from 77.5 percent to 76.2 percent over the same period, sending Korea’s ranking in the OECD into freefall to 30th place among the 38 member states. In contrast, in major countries like Germany, Japan and the U.K, the employment rate in their 30s and 40s continued to rise to the 85-percent level over the same period.
If temporary jobs with less than 15 hours of work a week are excluded, the actual employment rate among Koreans in their 30s and 40s is probably the lowest in the OECD. The number of people in the age group who have simply given up looking for work increased around 30 percent over the last four years, while the number of employed people in their 30s has declined for 19 straight months. The Moon Jae-in administration’s anti-business and anti-market policies, including sharp increases in the minimum wage, have led to a decline in quality jobs available to people in their most productive years.
In manufacturing, 37,000 jobs were lost over the past year, while small businesses that employ any workers other than the owner and family declined by 48,000 over the past year, down for 34 months in a row. The government patted itself on the back last month by announcing that the number of employed people in Korea increased by 670,000 over the past year, and called that a “clear recovery trend.” But most of those jobs were short-term positions for senior citizens in such areas as guarding parking lots and picking up leaves. As proof, figures show that the number of people who work less than 17 hours a week increased by 340,000.
Instead of trying to fix the fundamental cause of the malaise, the government has been focusing on stop-gap measures. Last year, Cheong Wa Dae asked Statistics Korea no fewer than 204 times to provide data before officially publishing them, and one-third of that was job figures. That shows just how eager the government has been to mislead the public.
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