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[Editorial] Where Are the Good Jobs?

Posted July. 04, 2006 03:38,   


Only 140,000 decent jobs were created last year, less than half of 300,000 jobs a year earlier, said a report from the Samsung Economic Research Institute. In May, the unemployment rate was 3.2 percent and the jobless number increased, which is why average Koreans feel the labor market is not in good shape despite job security in some sectors.

Decent jobs mean those in the finance, insurance, information technology services where nominal monthly industry wages hover over the overall industry average. If Korea added 300,000 jobs last year, the level seen a year earlier, public satisfaction toward employment would have been much higher, taking the chain reaction of jobs into account.

In large part because of lack of decent jobs, the economically non-active population reached some 490,000 in the first quarter of this year, the largest since 2003, when the survey started. This generated newly-coined words that reflect difficulty in the job market, including “Yigubaek,” which means 90 percent of those in their twenties are jobless and “Sibjangsaeng,” which means even teenagers should think about being unemployed in the future.

Koreans wonder whether President Roh Moo-hyun remembers his presidential pledges of creating 2.5 million jobs during his five-year term, and policy promises of adding good jobs. These are promises that will not be delivered if the administration is obsessed with social bipolarization debates, imposing heavy real estate taxes, and a distribution-only welfare policy. Former PM Han Duck-soo, Minister of Finance and Economy, who stuck to tax increase and anti-speculation real estate policies, abruptly said after the May 31 local election, “All economic policies will be linked to job creation,” only to be replaced.

To create more decent jobs, the government should ease regulation considerably, in particular, on core sectors, fostering investment. Considering even in the free economic zones where regulations are supposed to be largely eased, development approval from relevant government offices takes as long as eight months, one can easily imagine how long it will take to get approval in other parts of the country. If this business-unfriendly environment goes unchecked, it will be hard to create new jobs, let alone decent jobs. In foreign countries, government performance is determined by the number of new jobs added. The Roh administration should break itself away from notorious reputation of a government that created no decent, no average jobs.