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[Editorial] 48,000 Self-Employed Turn to Manual Work

Posted February. 27, 2007 06:53,   


Last year alone, among service workers and the self-employed, 48,000 had to change their jobs to become cleaners, janitors, food delivery staff, handymen and other simple manual workers. A year ago, the number of self-employed was 480,000, so one out of 10 Koreans changed jobs in this way.

Last year, the highest number of self-employed quit their jobs and the highest number of people turned into simple manual workers. These are indicators showing how hard it is to live a life as a self-employed worker and how degrading this kind of livelihood is for the public.

All this is because the number of small-scale private business owners such as those of restaurants and retail shops is increasing. It is not an exaggeration for them to say, “Things are worse now than during the financial crisis.” The government says that the number of restaurants nationwide is as many as 600,000 and retail shops number 630,000; such woes result from their weak competitive edge.

However the biggest reason for the increasing number of the self-employed is a shortage of corporate occupations. Kim Byung-jun, the head of the Presidential Commission of Policy Planning, said while he was serving as a policy-planning director, “The problem is the number of the self-employed is too high, but this is a complacent attitude that does not address the cause of the problem. If the government improves regulations and the business environment, facilitating investment, corporate jobs will in turn facilitate demand, making a favorable situation for the self-employed.”

President Roh Moo-hyun has pledged both economic growth of seven percent and the creation of 500,000 jobs every year, but Korea’s growth engine has weakened as the government has ruined the mood for investment and employment. Eventually due to chronic low growth, real income has turned sluggish with shrunken consumption, which in turn has made things more difficult for the self-employed. The government promised equity and balanced development for the people, but failures in growth and job creation widened the gap between rich and poor.

Even under such circumstances, Cheong Wa Dae recently argued during a briefing, “The participatory government’s GPA in economics for the past four years is not bad.” They seem to see exports and stock indices alone and not the indicators of the people’s livelihood, such as income, job type, housing prices and house deposit fees.

Against this backdrop, Minister of Finance and Economy Kwon Oh-gyu said yesterday on the economic circumstances that, “With the severe bipolarization in globalization and digital divide, forces that attack the theories of market and economy are expanding.” He must have missed the point that it was anti-market-oriented policies and the anti-business environment created by the government that led to reductions in investment, employment and consumption, eventually widening bipolarization. It is funny how Minister Kwon and Mr. Kim said the same thing. As they misunderstand what caused what, passing the blame, it is no wonder no solution is expected of them.