World Economy

S. Korea Youth Unemployment Raises Serious Concerns

S. Korea Youth Unemployment Raises Serious ConcernsS. Korea Youth Unemployment Raises Serious Concerns

Park Jin-hyung, a 28-year-old university graduate, feels more anxious than ever before. He has just finished his second internship at a big firm, with no full-time job lined up. Park, who holds a double degree in business and international relations, has applied to about 60 companies since January, but was only interviewed by three firms that eventually did not offer him any positions.

Park is one of some 410,000 young South Koreans in their 20s who are not in school and out of work as of June this year, according to Statistics Korea on Sunday, Yonhap reported.

The nation’s youth unemployment reached the highest this year since 2000, raising serious concerns about the government’s labor policies especially for the country’s younger population, as well as the limited job security among young contract workers.

The number of unemployed young Koreans, which stood at 330,000 back in 2013, rose to 380,000 last year, and reached 410,000 in the first half of this year. This is the second consecutive year for the youth unemployment rate to peak since 2000–when the country was still reeling from the aftermaths of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Statistics show that the government’s efforts to tackle youth unemployment have not been effective so far. The ministry of labor and employment allocated 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) this year for projects to combat youth unemployment, with some 40 policies–including special programs for those who wish to seek employment overseas and free mentorship service–specifically aiming to support young job seekers.

In an effort to fight the low employment among the younger people, the ministry even formed a special task force in June to help them find positions or opportunities that match their skills or draw on their formal job training or education.

Kim Soo-hyun, a researcher at the Seoul Institute, said the Asian financial crisis had a long-lasting impact on Korea’s job market.

 Contract Workers

“As the market became unpredictable after the crisis, more companies preferred to hire contract workers with previous job experience over young, full-time workers for entry positions, who are difficult to dismiss even if the business goes down,” he wrote in his study on youth unemployment published last year.

Kim Gwang-seok, a researcher at Hyundai Research Institute, also said the lack of full-time positions among young workers is linked to the high youth unemployment rate.

According to Statistics Korea, 34.8% of Koreans aged 15-29 started their career with a contractual position as of May, meaning one-third of young Koreans participate in the workforce for the first time with a limited job security. Among them, 19.6% said their first job’s contract was less than a year.

Part-time job opportunities have worked to spike the employment rate for the time being.