Koreans in Their Prime of Life Lose out on Work

  • By Shin Eun-jin

    October 14, 2021 11:39

    Korea's employment rate of people in their 30s and 40s, the backbone of any country's economy, has declined so much that it now ranks near the bottom of the OECD.

    The Korea Economic Research Institute on Wednesday said that the employment rate among people in their 30s and 40s in Korea stood at just 76.2 percent last year, which was much lower than Germany's 85.8 percent, Japan and the U.K.'s 85.1 percent and France's 81.9 percent.

    In all these countries, the rate had edged up compared to 2015 -- 0.9 percentage points in Germany and France, 2.7 percentage points in Japan and 2.1 percentage points in the U.K. -- but Korea saw a decline of 0.7 percentage points.

    "People in their 30s and 40s are the most active and productive age groups in businesses and are also important in society in terms of marriage and childbirth," KERI said. "A low employment rate in those age groups could lead to an overall weakness of our economy."

    People look at a bulletin board at a job fair at KINTEX in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province on Oct. 7. /Yonhap

    In terms of numbers, employed people in the age group dwindled from 12.62 million in 2015 to 11.71 million last year. The biggest decline was naturally in service industries like hospitality affected by the global lockdown, where 76,516 jobs vanished.

    Next were educational services (71,102 jobs lost), wholesale and retail (53,743) and manufacturing (50,406).

    More people simply gave up looking for jobs. The number of 30- and 40-somethings who lost hope of finding jobs rose from 129,258 in 2015 to 171,358 last year, and growth has been particularly steep since 2018 at 12 percent a year on average. Across all age groups the figure grew only 7.5 percent.

    Kim Yong-choon at KERI said, "Lackluster employment among people in their 30s and 40s is a huge loss for our economy and society, so the government should do more than just focus on the quantity of job growth but create quality positions that encourage them to look for work again." 

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