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Government gets high marks from Moon for 2019

He talked employment and quality of life in New Year’s remarks
Jan 08,2020
President Moon Jae-in praised the achievements of his income-led growth policies, including higher wages, more jobs, a higher quality of life and a shorter workweek.

“Jobs are the foundation of life,” President Moon said in his New Year’s speech Tuesday. “The government last year spent the most ever in creating jobs.”

He said the government focused on jobs for young people, the elderly and women and that it focused its policies on creating jobs in the private sector.

“As a result, the jobs figures show clear signs of recovery,” Moon said.

“Last year, 280,000 new jobs were newly created, while the employment rate hit an all-time record,” Moon said.

“Youth employment rate has reached the highest in 13 years.”

He emphasized that the quality of employment has improved, citing a “significant increase” in regular jobs and a narrowing of the wage gap between conglomerates and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We will push the entry of women, young people and senior citizens into the labor market through support such as creating a positive environment where people can work and raise their children by allowing both parents to take childcare leave simultaneously as well as government subsidies for the hiring of additional young and old employees,” Moon said. “We plan to help people in their 40s struggling to get jobs - those who are the center of our economy and manufacturing.”

He said the government will come up with comprehensive measures, specifically targeted towards people in their 40s, and regulation and investment incentives to create more jobs in the private sector.

Moon praised the higher minimum wage and the shorter workweek.

“The government has worked to raise the quality of the lives of workers,” Moon said. “As a result, for the first time since related data has been compiled, annual labor hours have fallen below 2,000 while the ratio of low-income workers have shrunk below 20 percent.”

He said this year the government will continue its efforts so that the people will actually feel the changes.

“We will support SMEs with fewer than 300 employees to settle on the 52-hour workweek while improving the process for deciding on the minimum wage,” Moon said.

“As a result of our inclusive policies, the Gini coefficient, the distribution of wealth and the relative poverty rate have all improved,” Moon said. “Household incomes are growing evenly at all levels.”

Despite his optimistic comments, economic statistics suggest that troubles remain. The GDP is growing about 2 percent and exports have been declining for 13 consecutive months.

Most of the newly added jobs were temporary government-funded jobs for senior citizens and do not add much to the economy, such as managing parks or tending school grounds.

Jobs in manufacturing and those for people in their 40s continued to decline.

Incomes for those in the bottom 20-percent income bracket grew in the third quarter. But half of those earnings came from increased government subsidies, while labor income on average shrunk.

The Moon government has been accused of trying to prop up the economy artificially through spending. This year, the government’s budget is at an all-time record of 512.3 trillion won ($439.7 billion).

Although the health, welfare and job budget has been cut 1.2 trillion won from the government’s initial proposal, it is still at a record breaking level of 180.5 trillion won, which is 19.5 trillion won more than in 2019. The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has been accusing the government and the ruling party of trying to win votes in the general election in April.

The LKP floor leader Shim Jae-chul said President Moon’s New Year’s message is denying reality.

“President Moon claimed that jobs and the economy are improving, which is completely unrealistic,” Shim said. “It’s very disappointing that the president is distorting reality and statistics.”

Yet President Moon in his New Year’s message said the government will continue to push on.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]