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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 12)

All News 06:59 June 12, 2020

Soaring unemployment
Authorities should prioritize job creation

The nation's May unemployment rate has recorded a 21-year high, showing how the novel coronavirus is gnawing away at the economy. The number of jobless people jumped to 1.27 million in May, up 11.6 percent from a year earlier. The jobless rate rose 0.5 percentage points year-on-year to 4.5 percent. These figures show South Korea's worst job market since Statistics Korea began tallying related data in 1999.

The numbers tell of COVID-19's ruthless impact on the nation's economy that was not locked down amid the pandemic.
Last month, the number of jobs fell by 392,000 from a year ago, an improvement from the 476,000 jobs shed in April. Nevertheless, it was the third consecutive month of job losses. The downward march marked the first time since the economy saw four consecutive months of job losses starting in October 2009 during the global financial crisis.

The pandemic is affecting all economies around the world in a negative way. Because sentiment is crucial to economic performance, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hong Nam-ki positively noted that employment in some areas of the services sectors — deeply impacted by the first onslaught of COVID-19 — showed a small improvement.
But the backbone of Korea Inc., the manufacturing sector saw 57,000 people losing their jobs as exports took a hit.

Unemployment was heavy for those in their 30s and 40s who largely uphold the national and household economies. It's time to expedite job boosting plans to successfully ride out the COVID-19 economic fallout. Hong went so far as to say on Facebook that his "heart was heavy" over the unemployment figures, and appealed strongly for the 21st National Assembly to promptly get to work.

Since the virus outbreak, the government has drafted three supplementary budgets. The third such spending bill, at 35.3 trillion won ($29.4 billion), should be approved soon. The budget which aims to stabilize employment through various programs including a government policy of creating 550,000-plus jobs is awaiting approval at the new Assembly.

The Assembly looks all but set to get to work by Friday after reaching agreements on the formation of standing committees. When it opens for work, lawmakers should prioritize processing the budget and related bills to improve employment and the economy. A job saved will be just as strong, if not stronger, as the expansion of the social safety nets.


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