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Desperately seeking work

Sept 26,2017
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I recently attended a meeting of college students preparing to join a media company, and the members, mostly seniors and graduates, introduced a pledge to “break out” of the study group. When I asked one member how long he had been with the group, he said, “You should be a member for at least a year and up to three years.”

But not everyone gets a job when they leave. When an aspiring journalist fails to get an offer at a media company two or three years after graduating from college, it is not easy to get another job, and many feel frustrated. The study group preparing for their dreams is not an open space of hope but a closed space they want to escape. Getting a job is a desperate goal.

“Whenever my daughter fails to get an offer, I am torn,” a friend of mine once told me. He is an executive at a government-funded research institute that’s known for solid job security. He had few worries other than the little inconvenience of working away from the family during the week as the company had relocated.

But whenever he talks about his children, he becomes agitated and worried. His daughter graduated from a prestigious university with a degree in business management. He had hoped that she would get a job at a top company, but after many failed attempts, she is still looking for a job a year and a half after graduation.

She has lowered her expectations from the top 10 conglomerates to companies with middle standing, but she still hasn’t gotten an offer. My friend complained that it costs more money now than her college years because she is taking private classes to improve her résumé.

One executive at a large conglomerate I talked to said he is closely watching government policy. When I asked about his recruitment plan, he asked back, “How can we decide the number of new hires when we don’t know how to expand our business?” He is agonizing over workforce management because he feels government policies like increasing the minimum wage and reducing contract employment are burdensome to his operation.

The executive seems discouraged because the government is not favorable toward large corporations anymore. They are reluctant to expand their workforce, aggravating the job situation. In August, the unemployment rate of young people aged 14 to 29 was 9.4 percent, the highest since 10.7 percent in August 1999.

The government wants to shift the economic paradigm from big business to ordinary people, but the people are suffering from unemployment. Many experts say it is companies that create jobs and expanding the civil service might not create real jobs.

However, large companies are reluctant, and small and medium-sized enterprises cannot afford to hire. Without fundamental solutions to revive the economy, the effect of a government budget is limited. As Korea Inc. remains hesitant to hire, young people are growing more anxious. They are desperately seeking jobs.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 38

*The author is head of the Innovation Lab at the JoongAng Ilbo.

KIM CHANG-GYU