+ A

Salaried jobs jumped in late 2018, but pessimism remains

June 21,2019
Korea added nearly 360,000 salaried jobs in the final quarter of last year compared to the same period the previous year.

But the data indicate that many of the salaried positions were actually government jobs. The gains are similar to those in the wider market, where new employment has come largely from hiring in the public sector.

Experts say that despite the headline number, the employment situation remains bleak. They also noted that the new data, which are gathered using a different method, may not reflect the realities of the job market.

Statistics Korea reported Thursday a total of 18.49 million salaried jobs in the last quarter of 2018, an increase of 359,000 from the same period the previous year.

The government added that it was an improvement of 213,000 jobs added in the third quarter last year.

In terms of sectors, 114,000 health care and social welfare jobs were added, followed by wholesale, at 92,000 on year. The construction industry lost 96,000 jobs and manufacturing 12,000.

The government and unincorporated organization job numbers rose at the fastest rate, 5.4 percent, compared to the overall growth rate of 2 percent.

The quarterly report is different from monthly employment figures, as it tracks salaried workers who are under job insurance programs, making the figures more precise. The report, first announced in March this year, does not capture the overall job market as it excludes workers not part of the insurance program, such as those who are self-employed.

“Jobs in the health care and social welfare category rose, centered on women in their 50s and 60s, due to increased demand for labor,” said Park Jin-woo, director of the agency’s register-based statistics division. “The wholesale sector saw increased output, so workers under jobs insurance programs increased, leading to more jobs in terms of statistics.”

The government’s relaxation of standards for the state-run job insurance programs last year also likely helped the statistics.

Korea eased the rules last July so that salaried workers who work less than 60 hours a month can join the state-run job insurance program.

“Requirements for joining the job insurance program for those who work less than 60 hours were relaxed … so the number of those who joined the programs likely increased,” added Park.

Officials added that it is impossible to determine how many jobs are due to the rule change.

Some experts believe that the new report serves to emphasize the government message that the job situation is improving while the job market continues to struggle.

“The statistics mask the disastrous situation in the job market,” said Kim Tai-gi, a professor of economics at Dankook University. “As manufacturing jobs have decreased, lower quality jobs have risen.”

“It’s difficult to say that the job situation has improved,” said Sung Tae-yoon, a Yonsei University economics professor.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]