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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Jan. 13)

All News 07:02 January 13, 2017

1 million jobless people

The unemployment problem is going from bad to worse amid little indication of an economic turnaround.

The number of jobless people surpassed 1 million last year for the first time since the government adopted the current measuring system in 2000. The unemployment rate for young people aged between 15 and 29 hit an all-time high of 9.8 percent last year. In 2015, the figure also hit a record high of 9.2 percent.

But these figures might not reflect the true nature of our entrenched unemployment woes, considering that more than 2 million people are actually out of work. That's because the official jobless statistics exclude nearly 630,000 young people preparing to look for jobs and 448,000 who have given up seeking work.

Our dismal unemployment reality stands in sharp contrast with the situation in leading economies. Japan is almost in full employment, with its youth jobless rate dipping from 8.9 percent in 2010 to 5.6 percent in 2015. The U.S. has also seen its youth unemployment rate fall dramatically. Its employment conditions look set to improve as President-elect Donald J. Trump is eager to attract businesses.

What is even more distressing is that the labor market could worsen amid deepening economic uncertainty. In fact, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance forecast our employment conditions to aggravate, hit by corporate restructuring and sluggish domestic demand.

All governments have exerted efforts to boost job creation without exception. But the results have hardly been satisfactory, as evidenced by the rising youth unemployment rate. All this requires employment measures to be more business-friendly and creative. Given that 61 percent of jobs might disappear by 2025 as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution, rehashing outdated measures won't help ease the unemployment problem.

Our politicians are not free from criticism when it comes to boosting employment. The tripartite committee of labor, employers and government hammered out labor reform bills in 2015, but they have been stuck in the legislature because of partisan conflicts. It's imperative to pass uncontested bills first, and then the parties should do whatever they can to narrow their differences on the remaining ones. They also must hurry to approve bills on the services industry and deregulation, which are vital to job creation.

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