Finding a job has become more and more challenging since the coronavirus first impacted the world. According to data released by the National Statistical Office last year, the number of employed decreased for nine consecutive months from March to November 2020, and the unemployment rate of young people, aged 15 to 29, reached 8.1%. A 1.1% increase from the previous year. 2020’s annual employment statistics showed that the number of employees in their 20s fell by 146,000 from the previous year. It is the largest drop in 22 years, since the 1998 financial crisis. What is the root cause of this crisis and what can we do to counteract to these employment challenges?
There are various reasons why the difficulties of employment have worsened, but above all, the long-term Covid19 pandemic has had the most significant impact. It has accelerated changes in the hiring practices of companies. Before the pandemic, some companies were switching job postings from regular full time work to occasional hires, but since the pandemic, this practice has become more and more common. The problem is the number of job postings in this category are unpredictable and usually offer fewer opportunities than regular hires. They are also harder to land because you never know when the jobs will be posted. Job seekers find it difficult to prepare for the job specifications, required exams and the interviews when most posts are unpredictable in contrast to job fairs. Occasional hires are usually to fill in for people who left the company unexpectedly or to help with the burden of work from new contract. In these cases, employers cannot afford to spend time training the new hire. Instead they seek candidates with experience who can get started immediately on the work required. Recent graduates are unsuitable for may of these jobs.
The second reason for the decrease in employment is the financial difficulties caused by the prolonged pandemic. It has forced most companies to tighten their belts, leading to a reduction in hiring. According to a survey released by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the number of planned new hires between October 2020 and March 2021 fell by 253,000, down by 3,000 (1.1%) from the same period of last year. About 69% of respondents cited Covid19 as the reason for the decrease in new employment.
|▲ National Institute of Korean History recommended applicants to refrain from taking the Korean History Proficiency Test. (Photo from Asia Economy)|
Finally, the pandemic has reduced opportunities for job seekers to take various certificate tests. The “Big Data Analyst” qualification exam was canceled four days before the scheduled test date because of Covid19. The Korean History Proficiency Test had too much trouble securing a suitable exam site, so organizers sent a text message to test takers urging them to refrain from taking the test. As such, the Covid19 pandemic has reduced opportunities to take the necessary certification tests to get a job, intensifying employment difficulties.
Meanwhile, the way job seekers prepare for interviews has also changed. Most programs which support job seekers by giving job descriptions or tips on how to land a job were originally held offline. However, under the threat of contracting the coronavirus, most of these services moved online. The job camp ‘DongGoDongRak’ hosted by GS Caltex, is representative of the changes job seekers face. Unlike previous camps which were held in a hotel in Seoul over the last three years, the 2020 camp was held on-line. While an increased number of applicants could participate, some programs such as ‘How to get nice portrait shot for job application’ were canceled due to spatial constraints. Also, many enterprises changed their job briefing sessions from offline to online.
|▲ A woman is recording an interview video in front of the kiosque from ‘2020 Suwon City Online Job Fair’. (Photo from Kyeonggi news)|
To support job seekers during these chaotic times, the Korean government developed new employment policies. On the first day of the year, the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) launched a new employment aid program called the ‘Korean Unemployment Benefit’. Disadvantaged groups in the labor market, such as low-income job seekers, women who have experienced career disruptions and youth or senior job seekers can receive living support and employment support at the same time through the program. The government provides beneficiaries with subsidies, job training for better occupational competence development, psychology, employment and career consultations to motivate job seeking, and many other programs. The government is also planning to create new jobs. The Moon administration promised to create 900,000 new jobs in the public sector by the end of the first quarter and provide full support for the private sector to secure new jobs. Meanwhile, local governments are also trying to support the unemployed by launching similar policies. Gyeonggi-do has been providing financial support to unemployed youth through a policy called the 'Youth Interview Allowance’ since June. Unemployed people aged 19 to 39 who live in Gyeonggi-do can receive a grant for assistance when they have a job interview.
Kim (24) was in school preparing to enter the job market until last year. This semester she decided to postpone her graduation and better prepare for entry into the workforce. She has experienced many inconveniences in her job hunt due to the pandemic. She believes the economy has deteriorated and said she had a lot of difficulties in obtaining certificates she needs for employment. “In my case, I’m preparing for an English-Speaking test, a computer literacy test, a certificate related to English and Spanish, and financial management. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had to take the test at a test site an hour away, and I had to register for the test three weeks in advance. In addition, OPIC and Spanish certificates require speaking practice, but both study groups and academies are anxious about gatherings due to Covid19, so I am studying alone,” she said. She also pointed out that some people work part-time to earn money to cover their expenses while studying to get a job, but these people are facing a very difficult situation right now. Some have lost their part-time jobs due to the pandemic, making it even more burdensome for students who have to earn money to cover the expenses it costs to land a full time job.
The Covid19 pandemic made it more difficult for the unemployed to get a job. Despite these challenges, job seekers must persist and try not to panic. Keep your eyes open for online job fairs or free courses you can take part in from home. For example, Dankook University’s Job Startup Support Center is helping students with diverse programs available online. The government also needs to continuously launch new support measures for the unemployed while companies will have to make efforts to recruit new staff, providing un-tact employment programs and job fairs. By working together, we can all do our part in overcoming this employment crisis.
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