February 17, 2021 13:39
President Moon Jae-in has ordered "special measures" to boost jobs after being stunned by dismal employment figures in January. Moon described the latest employment numbers as the "worst crisis since the [1997 Asian] financial crisis." The number of jobs last month declined by 980,000 compared to a year ago, while real youth unemployment soared to a record 27 percent. The government has been creating short-term jobs primarily for senior citizens with taxpayers' money to fiddle the figures, but the protracted coronavirus pandemic has caused even those to dry up, revealing the true ugly face of unemployment in Korea.
And yet the only option Moon can see is to double down on the same useless quick fixes. He pledged to "directly create 900,000 [public] jobs by the end of March." Government agencies will soon get to work creating still more menial sinecures like picking up litter and monitoring traffic lights. All of them will of course be paid for by the taxpayer, while the government boast of this totally illusory decline in unemployment.
The pandemic alone cannot be blamed for the unemployment crisis. In fact, unemployment became a chronic problem long before it started, and the cause is the government's failed policy. The Moon Jae-in administration shackled businesses by imposing numerous regulations. The president's disastrous "income-led growth" model, with its rapid hike of the minimum wage, caused both the quality and quantity of jobs to deteriorate. When he was an opposition lawmaker, Moon boasted that he would be able to create a million jobs for W22 trillion, which was former president Lee Myung-bak's budget for his botched four-rivers project. But in office Moon pumped a staggering W80 trillion over the past four years into his failed attempts to create jobs and now wants to carry on repeating the same mistakes.
Moon also pledged to "expand the hiring capacity of the private sector by supporting bold investments and reforming regulations." Did any business believe him? The ruling party bulldozed through a slew of key bills that only shackle the freedom of businesses. One study shows that 37 percent of venture and mid-sized businesses have considered reducing hiring and 25 percent relocating their operations overseas. Can the government remedy that situation also by hiring some more part-time park attendants?
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