The younger generation face ever grimmer prospects in the job market while older people are pushed out of work even earlier amid the drawn-out global recession.
According to Statistics Korea last month, 11.4 percent of the 4.5 million people between 15 and 29 who are not currently at school or university have little chance of finding a job until they turn 30.
That is the highest youth unemployment rate since statistics began in the category in 2004.
Kim Bum-suk of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said the fear is that they will still have difficulty finding a job in their 30s because they have accumulated no job experience in their 20s.
It took young people who do have work an average of 11 months to find their first jobs. But even then they normally worked in their first job for just a year and four months. Asked why they left, the largest proportion or 44 percent, cited dissatisfaction with working conditions, including salary and working hours. That is up 1.7 percentage points from a year earlier, showing that there are fewer decent jobs for young people in the job market.
Meanwhile, people between the ages of 55 to 79 worked for an average of 19 years and seven months in their longest job -- the shortest period since statistics began in 2005.
The average working period in a single job dropped below 20 years in 2010. Workers retired at the relatively young age of 53 years on average, even though they would still need to work for at least 10 years considering that the 2010 life expectancy was 77 years for men and 84 for women.
Some 90 percent of the 5.49 million employed older people wanted to work longer. When asked why, 49 percent said to make ends meet.
Prof. Lee Chan-young of Chonnam National University said, "The diminishing chances of employment for the younger generation and earlier retirement of the older generation aren't recent phenomena, but they have been aggravated by the recession."