SEOUL, August 5 (Korea Bizwire) - Among the 33 countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), Korea has the third largest share of ‘NEETs’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training) among youth.
According to the OECD, Koreans who do not have the urge to work nor get any training or education among youth aged 15 to 29 reached 15.6 percent. This is 7.4 percent points higher than the OECD average (8.2 percent). Only two countries had a higher percentage than Korea, Turkey (24.9 percent) and Mexico (18.5 percent).
Even southern European countries that are going through a financial crisis such as Greece (6.7 percent), Spain (6.6 percent) and Portugal (4.7 percent) had a smaller portion of NEETs. Still, they had a high unemployment rate of young people who were willing to work.
The portion of NEETs was lower than 5 percent in Japan (4.6 percent), Switzerland (4.5 percent), Sweden (4.4 percent) and Iceland (3.5 percent). Luxembourg (2.6 percent) had the lowest rate among the 33 countries.
The percentage of NEETs among youths increased in most OECD countries after the global economic crisis of 2008. As the economy was hit hard by the financial crisis, the number of jobs decreased and the quality of employment also went down.
As a result of the economic downturn, the Korean job market is also frozen. Economic growth is only being achieved in manufacturing businesses and export trading, which are not very helpful in creating new jobs. Also, the dual structure of the labor market between regular and non-regular workers, major companies and small businesses is deepening. Companies are recruiting more young interns instead of hiring new employees. Low quality jobs like these, which are short-termed, pay less, and require minimum skills are crushing the desire for young people to get a job.
According to an analysis by the Hyundai Research Institute, a majority of young NEETs have left low quality jobs. Among the NEETs that had experience in maintaining a job, 24.6 percent worked as contract workers for less than a year, and 18 percent were hired as temporary workers. The fact that the work they are doing is taking them nowhere, and not giving them a chance to develop and achieve something in a long term, is diminishing the young workers’ urge to get a job. In the mean time, 42 percent of NEETs have never been employed, and 42.9 percent were unemployed for over a year.
Kim Gwang-seok, a researcher at Hyundai Research Institute, warns that the phenomenon could cast huge negative effects on society. “If youths without jobs are continuously unemployed for a long time, this will lead to social problems like lower spending and a low birthrate, making it harder and harder to get out of this economic crisis.”
The OECD also warns that the unemployment rate of youths in Korea will keep increasing, and urgent measures must be taken. “Korea has a high rate of non-regular workers, and a comparably high rate of NEETs. The unemployment rate of young people is relatively low considering these numbers, but is showing an increase since the latter half of 2012. It is a task the Korean Labor Market has to solve.”
Actions to expand employment possibilities for young people should be taken, and solutions should not involve the creation of low-quality temporary jobs. It would be like covering a tumor with a band-aid. The fundamental cure will be revitalizing the economy, which will create more quality jobs for young people, and more importantly, give young people hope and the urge to develop a career.
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)