Family strife is on the rise as a growing number of small business owners make up for a shortage of workers by harnessing family members to the plow.In a survey of members by the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise, 27 percent of respondents said they employ family members for no pay. Since there were 5.69 million small business owners in Korea as of August this year, that means 1.53 million people are working in family-owned stores for no pay.One 76-year-old restaurant owner in Seoul employs three of his nephews. "My nephews came to help when they heard my pleas, but they're not happy to be here," he says. "But I have no choice since it's so hard to find workers."
People who own small stores quarrel often with relatives who help out. A 22-year-old asked her parents to help run her coffee shop in Gangnam in the morning hours. "My parents treat me like an employee when they're at the coffee shop," she said. "They badger me, but I can't complain because they gave me W200 million to open this shop (US$1=W1,430)."But the shortage of workers at eateries and other shops is difficult to resolve. Many workers who were laid off in the coronavirus pandemic found jobs in the gig economy and are reluctant to go back to grueling hours in small shops.A number of stores have already reduced their menus or opening hours and are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels although COVID restrictions have been lifted.