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[Opinion] Unemployed Youth

Posted November. 03, 2006 03:01,   

한국어

The Boxer Rebellion uprising that took place at the end of the Ching Dynasty in China under the slogan of helping the Ching Dynasty to fight back the Western forces is widely known as an anti-foreign movement led by patriots. But there is a different interpretation on the event: the uprising was an explosion of pent-up discontent of unmarried youth with no jobs in the form of a political demonstration. In China, a country enjoying an annual growth rate of 10 percent, only some 11 million can land a job out of about 25 million job seekers crowding into cities from rural areas. Beijing is desperate to maintain its phenomenal growth rate even by cozying up to Washington because it clearly knows the unemployment poses a great threat to its regime.

A former leftist French President failed to stay in power due to the repercussion of a massive protest by the unemployed youth in 1995. At the presidential election, a presidential candidate from the opposition attacked the government throughout the campaign, saying “When a number of young people graduate from college and can’t get a job, their discontent can lead to an uprising. The government can respond to the problem by either cracking down on them or assuaging them with unemployment benefits. But how long can it contain them in that way?” The opposition candidate is the incumbent president Jacques Chirac. Chirac has been in office for the last 11 years but failed to resolve the youth unemployment hovering over 20%. Thus last year unemployed young Muslims and earlier this year Parisian college students concerned over their employment prospect staged massive demonstrations.

And on November 1, in the downtown of Seoul, we saw a pretest by young people without jobs chanting, “It is more urgent to address unemployment of 2,030 young people than the government fancy slogan ‘Vision 2030.’” Some 30 young people in their 20s marched peacefully from Jeong-dong to Gwanghwamun, but the implication of the youth unemployment and changes facing the Korean society are anything but peaceful. A country which fails to give a decent job to hard-working students who have gone through apprenticeship and voluntary works for getting a job cannot be said to be a functioning one. Rather, such a country is passing all the political, economic and educational failures onto its youth.

The job creation strategy presented by OECD in June after studying economic policies of the governments worldwide over the past 12 years can be summed up in two; sound macroeconomic policies and competitive production and labor market. It indicates that when a government manages its budget prudently while enhancing competitiveness and flexibility of private sector, unemployment rate decreases and more jobs are created. A knock-out of Jacques Chirac’s government that has had its iron hands on all sectors ignorant of these crystal-clear solutions seems to be inevitable. I wonder what will happen here in this country.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com