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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on April 29)

All News 07:09 April 29, 2016

Misconceived job policy
New measures lack effectiveness, consistency

The government announced measures Wednesday aimed at alleviating the hardships of young jobseekers, with a focus on encouraging Korea's young adults to start their careers at smaller businesses.

The latest batch of Park Geun-hye administration's job policies is short-sighted and ineffective in fixing the root cause of the employment crisis.

With this kind of misconceived approach, it is highly doubtful that Park is sincerely determined to do something about the devastating unemployment problem, which has continuously worsened since she arrived at Cheong Wa Dae. Before 2013, the youth unemployment rate did not exceed 8 percent. But in 2014, it rose to 9 percent and 9.2 percent in 2015. Last month, it reached its highest in 17 years. A recent state survey shows the unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 29 hit 12.5 percent in February, the highest since 1999.

There are two major problems with the new job measures. First, they are ill-focused. The measures should have been centered around nurturing more sound small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), not on paying cash incentives to young employees.

The irony is that while young people are finding it so hard to find jobs, SMEs are chronically struggling from a labor shortage. Young people's reluctance to work at smaller firms stems from the widespread perception that their pay and benefits fall way behind those of the conglomerates. Therefore, the government should have included win-win measures to aid small businesses and young workers. If SMEs were able to provide more attractive working conditions, young people would be more interested in working at smaller companies and the SMEs could acquire and retain a more devoted workforce.

Second, there is the problem of consistency. The government's plan will help young employees at SMEs save up to at least 12 million won ($10,400) in two years, with the government shouldering 6 million won. The government will implement the scheme in July and choose 10,000 people for this year, and is planning to increase the number of beneficiaries. But the problem with this kind of cash incentive is that it is not a long-term plan and does not put young employees on a consistent path toward a level of economic stability they need to consider marriage and raising a family.

The government's support of a meager saving will not play a huge role in altering the negative perception among young job seekers about SMEs. Also, a cash incentive is somewhat self-contradictory when considering the government has opposed cash incentives for young people implemented by local governments, such as Seongnam. All in all, the cash incentives sounds more like a populist scheme rather than a fundamental step toward increasing the economic stability of young workers.

Third, the measures show a huge lack of attention to helping women retain their jobs during and after pregnancy. There should have been more mother-friendly initiatives, such as expanding in-house day-care facilities and paid parental leave.

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