Lower Unemployment Rates Mask Declining Jobs For Young Koreans

1 min read
September 26, 2023
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Why it matters: The seemingly contradicting data on Korean youth employment showcases the challenges of reading the job market. While fewer Koreans in their 20s are landing new jobs, their employment rate is rising due to the diminishing youth population. This paints a distorted picture of the actual state of youth employment.

By the numbers:

  • As per the Korean Statistical Information Service (KOSIS), 3.75 million jobs existed for those aged 20 to 29 in August, a drop from 3.84 million the previous year.
  • 384,000 Koreans in their 20s were economically inactive this August, marking a rise of 28,000 year-on-year.
  • Despite the above figures, the employment rate for 20-somethings has risen slightly from 62.8% to 63.1%.

The backdrop: The increase in the employment rate for 20-somethings stems from the declining youth population, which has reduced by 192,000 over the past year. Hence, while the rate suggests more jobs, fewer young Koreans are employed.

The bigger picture: Korea’s job market presents varying challenges across age groups. For instance, while the country observed a decline of 36,000 jobs year-on-year in August for the young, the older age groups, notably those aged 60 and above, saw a promising increase of 304,000 jobs from the previous year. The 50s and 30s age groups also saw increments in their employment numbers.

We seen this before: We are seeing a disturbing pattern of where population decline is starting to affect markets but too slow to make the impact needed to improve the situations of younger Koreans, such as housing prices.

What to watch: With the continued decline in the youth population, misinterpretations of job market data for this age group could become a recurring issue, especially with the current Korean government more than willing to ignore youth issues and delay needed reforms.

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