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Cherry-picking writ large

Nov 05,2018
The government and Blue House have been claiming that the quality of jobs was improving despite the worsening headline numbers. President Moon Jae-in pointed to increases in the number of subscribers to insurance coverage by employers to argue that decent permanent jobs were on the rise.

He ordered the administration to better explain the upside of the government’s policy aimed at creating lasting jobs to the National Assembly and the public. He is arguing that job statistics look bad because temporary and precarious job numbers are on the decrease. But the president is misled. He is seeing what he wants to see.

There’s a lot of data that show the quality of jobs is worsening. According to a Statistics Korea survey of the workforce, workers hired on an irregular basis totaled 6,614,000 as of the end of August, up 36,000 from a year ago. The share of irregular workers in the working population hit a six-year high of 33.0 percent.

The salary gap between the full-time and irregular workforce widened from a year ago. In large workplaces hiring 300 people or more, the ratio of irregular workers increased from last year. The same phenomenon was apparent in the public sector. Workers earning 2 million won ($1,788) or less a month in the public sector increased by the biggest number in five years in the first half of the year.

It is textbook theory that job conditions deteriorate in numbers and quality when the economy is doing poorly. Due to a hike in the minimum wage and a cutback in the workweek hour to 52 hours, employers prefer to hire workers on an irregular basis.

Despite a worrying slump in the economy, the government is engrossed in inter-Korean ventures and reforms of chaebol. Companies have lost the will to invest and hire.

If data results are confusing, authorities should go to our business to check out the reality. They cannot come up with adequate solutions if they cherry-pick statistics.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30