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South Korea's Youth Face Rising Unemployment Rate And Seek Opportunities Abroad

By February 21, 2016 at 10:10 pm
South Korean students take their College Scholastic Ability Test at a school on November 13, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. More than 640,000 high school seniors and graduates sit for the examinations at 1,200 test centers across the country, where academic (Photo : Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images Korea)

When done with school, South Korea's youth face worsening unemployment rate and seek for better job opportunities abroad. Government data released this month showed unemployment rate rising down from 8.4 percent to 9.5 percent in December for Koreans aged between 15 and 29.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data showed South Koreans as those who work the longest hours among member countries, second to Mexicans. In 2014, a South Korean worked a total of 2,124 hours, 1.2 times more than the average among 34 developed countries covered by OECD.

South Korea's youth facing unemployment rate at critical levels result to job seekers looking for jobs outside the country, a post on Korea Portal said last year. The government has been trying to improve local employment rate but the youth still seek greener pastures outside. Most were hired in China while some went to Australia to work. The others went to Canada.

Yonhap News cited a 26-year-old male graduate who did not have many options. He was faced with both a frozen local job market and poor working conditions. Hence, he decided to take a master's degree rather than staying idle. Half a year before graduating, he visited an overseas job fair to search for job opportunities outside the country.

Unfortunately, South Korea's youth exert so much effort of getting a job only to face worsening unemployment rate or if they ever get one, become "working machines" because they get no time for themselves. "My friends working at small and medium-sized enterprises worry about their companies closing down and others working for large corporations struggle amid harsh competition. What they both complain about is that they have no time for themselves." He said.

The country's young people said they have to give up dating, marriage, childbirth and a lot more to live in South Korea. The youth not only face worse unemployment rate but economic and social pressures alike that make them not able to pay for high childcare and rent expenses. Worse, some big firms demand voluntary retirement to employees in their 20s and 30s.

The Korea International Corporation Agency held a two-day job fair and a thousand people came on the first day. The crowd included a group of high school students who were from Jeju island. The teacher who guided them said he wanted to show that South Korea could give the youth opportunities but in case of a rising unemployment rate, there is still hope.

In the job fair venue, the booth that dealt with overseas employment was among the busiest. An official of the Human Resources Development Service of Korea that set it up Lee Woo-jin said he was surprised to see many visitors, "The queue got so long that we had to hand out waiting number tickets to prevent them from standing for hours."

The Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency and the state organ signed a memo of understanding about overseas employment in 2010 and helped 300 Koreans find jobs abroad. In 2015, they helped 2,900, said Lee.

Those who have worked abroad did not have regrets. "Compared to the efforts people put in to get a job here, what they end up doing in the companies are often very time-consuming and trivial," one who works in Italy and had experienced working with an American boss. "In the strict hierarchical system of South Korean firms, one of the few benefits, I think, was the work stability, which guaranteed people to work until they reached a certain age," she added. "But now, I am skeptical about that too."

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