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#1 09-10-2018 04:28:27


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SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Employees in South Korea who work for two to three hours a day three to four times a week rose to the highest in five years as companies refrained from hiring regular workers amid the government-led flexible working system, statistical agency data showed on Monday.

The number of people who work for less than 17 hours a week reached 1.343 million in the July-September period, up 91,000 from the same period of last year, according to Statistics Korea. It was the highest since the reading touched 1.54 million in the third quarter of 2011.

The government initially introduced a system of flexible work hours for women who stop working due to marriage and child rearing as part of efforts to encourage such women to have job opportunities.

Boosted by the government-led flexible working system, however, companies created irregular or part-time jobs instead of recruiting regular workers amid the prolonged economic downturn.

Economic slump had led to an increase in ultra-short-hour workers here as seen during the 1998 Asian financial crisis and following the 2008 global financial crisis.

In the fourth quarter of 1998, ultra-short-hour workers jumped 226,000 compared with a year earlier, with the figure for the first quarter of 1999 surging 244,000. Readings in the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010 increased 143,000 and 178,000 respectively.

Higher employees working for ultra-short hours speed up economic slowdown as an increase in irregular or part-time workers indicate a fall in potential consumers, leading to a slump in private consumption and the subsequent decline in corporate earnings.

The upward trend in involuntary short-hour workers has faded up recently. The number of ultra-short-hour workers jumped 7.2 percent in the third quarter, while overall employment rose 1.2 percent. In the second quarter, ultra-short-hour workers picked up 4.4 percent, higher than a 1.1 percent growth in overall employment.

Seoul is seeking to adopt a flexible employment system by enabling companies to fire workers more easily, while attempting to introduce a performance-based wage system first in the public sector and then in the private sector.

The performance-based wage system triggered worries about the worsening of quality in public sector services such as healthcare and subway as it requires public corporations to provide fewer public services for people in the name of more profits and less costs.

Meanwhile, one out of three South Koreans unemployed graduated from college, bolstering concerns about the deepening unemployment among high-educated youths aged 15 to 29.

The number of those unemployed totaled 985,000 as of the third quarter, according to Statistics Korea data. Among them, 315,000 were college graduates, accounting for 32 percent of the total unemployment.

The third-quarter portion of unemployed college graduates was the highest since the statistical agency began compiling the data in 1999.

Even when the 1998 Asian financial crisis rattled the South Korean economy in the third quarter of 1999, the percentage of college graduates to those unemployed stood merely at 12.1 percent, or 161,000.

The percentage kept rising from 15.3 percent in 2005 to 20.5 percent in 2008 and 28.8 percent in 2015 each as high-educated youths failed to find decent jobs amid the increasingly flexible labor market conditions.

The rising number of youths who fail to land jobs after college graduation encouraged the younger generation in South Korea to refrain from dating, marriage and having children, creating a so-called "giving-up-some-things generation."

A rapid increase in discouraged youths who give up seeking regular jobs is forecast to weigh down on the South Korean economy together with increasingly explicit trend of low birth and aging population that would result in lower working-age population.

The country's jobless rate was 3.6 percent in September, up 0.4 percentage points from a month earlier. It marked the highest figure measured in the month of September since 2005.

Youth unemployment rate advanced 1.5 percentage points over the year to 9.4 percent in September, the highest since the statistical agency began compiling the relevant data.

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