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Employment Trends in 2006 at a Glance

Posted December. 18, 2006 07:04,   


“When will spring come?”

In 2006, the job market frustrated many young people. It has continued to do so for the last several years.

This year, the number of successful job seekers aged between 20 and 29 was the lowest in 22 years since 1984. Job applicants received “employment tutoring” in desperate pursuit of jobs.

Though the news is something we do not want to deliver to the job seekers, it is projected that next year’s job market will become tougher than this year. According to the “Job Opportunity Outlook of Top 500 Businesses in 2007” recently released by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the number of new job openings by top 500 businesses (based on revenues) is expected to be 49,602, down by 5.1 percent from this year’s projection of 52,123.

The following are five keywords summarizing characteristics of this year’s job market that has felt like endless winter.

Private tutoring for landing jobs-

A survey by the Dong-A Ilbo showed that one out of three job seekers received private tutoring for getting jobs. They were spending a monthly average of 430,000 won in private education expenses, mostly in language and practical work training.

It has become the “norm” for job applicants to go overseas for language training; “focused tutoring” for entering large businesses has also been prevalent. As companies increase the proportion of interviews in the employment process, speech institutes teaching how to excel in an interview earned lots of money. This reflects how desperate job seekers are to get the slightest change of landing a job.

Senior citizens’ job seeking craze-

The elderly feel sorry to ask for allowances, as it is uncertain when their sons might be kicked out of their work and when their grandsons will finally land a job. So these senior citizens stepped up to find their own job. This year, the number of job seekers over 55 who visited the Seoul City Government’s placement center for the elderly rose by about 45 percent compared to the previous year.

According to job information agency JobKorea, 38.7 percent of job applicants over 60 were those with a college degree or higher education. Also, 22.7 percent of them replied they wanted to “work throughout life,” and 52.6 percent stated they wanted to work until the age 70 or 75.

However, there were few job opportunities available for them. Accordingly, their level of wage was also low. Approximately 38 percent of senior citizens with jobs were reportedly paid 20,000 won or lower per day.

English interviews becoming widespread-

Some 70 percent of big businesses included English interviews in the recruitment process. They focused more on English skills actually used at work than on English test scores. Samsung Group and Hyundai-Kia Motor Group set the principle that applicants incapable of basic English conversation skills are not hired even though their TOEIC scores might be high. This trend reflects changes in businesses preferring “practice” to “scores.” Most manufacturers and financial institutions have lowered or lifted requirements on applicants’ TOEIC scores while strengthening English conversations and interviews. Taking this opportunity, a large number of private institutes and Internet sites for English interview preparations have been created.

Youth unemployment and Korean-style freeters-

In addition to itebek (over half of people in their 20s are jobless), a new buzzword, igubek (ninety percent of twenties are jobless), has been widespread. According to the Korea National Statistical Office (KNSO), the unemployment rate of twenty-somethings was 7.4 percent (as of November), more than twice the entire unemployment rate of 3.3 percent. This year until November, the monthly average of twenties with jobs stood at 4.063 million, a record low since 1984 when the number was 4.002 million.

Young people failing to get a decent job have turned to part-time jobs. Unlike “Japanese-style freeters” wanting to be free from time constraints and organizational life, “Korean-style freeters” are just making ends meet by doing part-time jobs.

Government and public corporations: the most preferred employer-

The place where today’s Korean young people want to work most is neither information technology (IT) businesses that are cutting edge of industries nor financial sectors where one can learn how money flows. It is “stable” state-run businesses. A survey by employment specialized firm Career demonstrated that 20.4 percent of job seekers chose state-owned businesses as the most wanted workplace over IT businesses (14.2 percent) and financial sectors (12.3 percent).

This year, the Seoul City Government’s seventh-class and ninth-class government official recruitment exams showed an “extreme” competition rate of 162:1, as 151,150 people applied for the tests aiming to hire 932. People with special licenses, such as certified public accountants (CPA), licensed tax accountants and customs brokers, are taking such tests to become government officials. These people say that the scarcity of specialized licenses has gone and that there are few jobs as stable as government officials. This trend is not desirable for the nation as a whole, but this is a sad reality caused by long-term recession and job insecurities.