People in their mid- to late 20s are having an increasingly tough time finding jobs. More than 400,000 new jobs are being created each month despite the global economic slump, but those available to people between 25 and 29 are dwindling.
According to Statistics Korea last week, the number of employed people in their late 20s fell by 116,000 in May compared to the same period of 2011 and by more than 100,000 every month until October. This marks the longest decline since the Asian financial crisis, when the figure dropped for 15 months.
In October, the number of employed people increased in almost all age groups, but 94,000 jobs available to those in their late 20s disappeared. In fact, 77,000 people between 20 to 24 found jobs in October, but 171,000 people between 25 to 29 lost theirs.
Those in their mid-20s are struggling to find jobs as they are apparently being squeezed between those in their early 20s and those in their 30s. Since last year, banks have been hiring more high school graduates in their early 20s, leading to a rise in the number of employed people in that age group.
According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, state-run institutions such as Korea Development Bank hired only 500 high school graduates last year but that increased fivefold to 2,508 this year.
Major business conglomerates, meanwhile, are hiring primarily experienced workers in their early 30s who do not require much job training. The number of employed people in their 30s increased by 27,000 on-year in October.
"The fact that jobs increased among those in their early 20s, where jobseekers primarily have a high-school diploma or graduated from vocational colleges, and those in their 30s with work experience, has actually eaten into the number of jobs available to those in between, who are mostly fresh university graduates," said Kim Beom-seok at the ministry.
Downsizing in the financial sector, which has been a favored destination of male jobseekers in their late 20s, has had a major impact. Banks, insurance companies and brokerages have cut back on new hires and laid off existing staff.
While almost 1 million university students take time off from school to earn money for their tuition fee in this recession, some experts say a growing number of fresh university graduates are giving up looking for jobs.
"With the job market now so tough for new jobseekers, more people appear to be going on to graduate school or study abroad after failing to find jobs for one to two years," said Lee Joon-hyup at the Hyundai Economic Research Institute. "The job market is likely to stay tough for those in their late 20s. The longer the recession drags on, the more businesses will increase hiring high school graduates who command lower salaries and look for experienced workers to fill higher-paying posts."