The increases in the number of employees have dwindled for the past seven months running. Compared to last November when 626,000 people were newly hired, only 509,000 new jobs were filled last month. The number of young employees who got a new job has decreased for two consecutive months. Fewer people have been hired, even with SMEs and owner-operators left with no way to secure young workers. One of the causes of this mismatch in the job market is that most newly created jobs involve short-term or part-time contracts, which young job seekers tend to shun.
The number of employees increased by a million or so around the beginning of last year but gradually went down starting last June. On an annualized basis, last year recorded 816,000 people newly employed in the job market-the highest increase in 22 years. Nevertheless, this optimistic trend has quickly lost steam. With the first step taken onto the downward path last November, the number of young workers decreased by a whopping 25,000 last month. As for this year, the government has projected that an increase in the number of new jobs to be filled in will only be about 100,000 or so, just an eighth of last year's figure.
Worse, short-term employees working less than 36 hours per week increased by 20 percent last year. Still, those with 36 working hours and above per week decreased by 2.5 percent, implying the deterioration of the jobs available in the market. In other words, fewer people got a decent job on a tenured contract while more employees started working part-time for convenience stores, restaurants, parcel agencies, and delivery service providers. Also, 55 percent of the new jobs created last year belonged to those of age 60 and above, which may explain that older workers, likely struggling financially, applied for jobs even with poorer working conditions attached to them.
This year does not stand to make a turnaround to create a sufficient number of quality jobs that can quell young people's thirst. Only some large companies in cutting-edge sectors, including semiconductors and batteries, have offered more jobs than before. In contrast, the others, in general, hesitate to hire more workers in a business environment where they have lost sight. The public sector is held back while grappling with the consequences of shifting part-time jobs to permanent employees. Competitively attracting developers and programmers by offering them high pay last year, startups have stopped hiring new employees due to the rising labor cost.
Having said that, it is not said that there are no jobs available in the market. According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, local businesses with five regular workers or more on the payroll see an urgent need for labor, estimated at 150,000 or so. The chronic mismatch in the Korean job market has become specific to the nation, where businesses struggle with a labor shortage while young job seekers are thirsty for jobs. That is why the government should spur its efforts to reform the divided labor market system to narrow the income gap between large companies and SMEs and innovate service sectors such as telemedicine that can create decent jobs.