| The jobless rate stood at 4 percent in February, the highest in 47 months. Included in the statistics are college graduates, many of them women, who have submitted numerous job applications only to be rejected. |
The burgeoning signs of economic recovery will not prove to be much of a solace to those college graduates and others who are desperately seeking jobs. Few expect the labor market will improve much better anytime soon, with demand lagging far behind supply.
In addition, growth does not create as many jobs as it used to. Work has been made so efficient by advances in technology and management that "jobless growth" is not a novel term any longer.
But the labor market will undergo a dramatic change in mid and long terms, with demand and supply projected to maintain a near parity in 2010. The Korea Labor Institute says demand will almost equal supply in 2010 and begin to surpass it thereafter. In other words, more jobs will be made available than sought after in five years or so.
But the problem is that it does not necessarily mean that everyone will have a job if he or she so wishes. Instead, the labor institute believes the nation will keep the current level of unemployment if things stand as they do now. The reason is that there will be severe mismatches of demand and supply in many different industrial sectors.
For instance, the institute says, there will be a growing demand in many manufacturing industries for workers highly trained in advanced technologies. But the demand will not be met if higher educational institutions in the nation should fail to produce highly skilled graduates as they do now.
That is the reason why the education authorities should accommodate industry demands in changing university curricula and put an emphasis on intensive training in science and technology. They should take heed of corporations' complaints that university graduates, when hired, need training from scratch.
Another way to meet a growing demand for highly skilled workers is to look to women, an underutilized labor force, and retirees who are still capable of working.
It will not be difficult for corporations to retain retiring workers or rehire those who have already retired because many of them will probably wish to continue to work, even for reduced wages. But it will not be as easy as it looks to increase the number of highly skilled women on the payroll.
The portion of high school girls going to college, which was registered at 19.9 percent 30 years ago, now stands at 77.5 percent. But female college graduates engaged in economic activities accounted for 61.6 percent of the total in 2003, or 28.1 percentage points lower than their male counterparts.
If the industries are to relieve the anticipated shortage of highly skilled workers any further, they will have to put more women graduating from colleges on their payrolls. But it will be easier said than done, with childcare being one of the greatest obstacles to taking jobs.
It is required by law for a corporation employing 300 women or more to run a nursery at its worksite at its own expense. But that rule is not much of help to many of those who are burdened with raising children, because there are not so many corporations employing as many women as 300.
A better idea would be to run nurseries in apartment complexes and other residential areas and have working women's childcare subsidized both by the companies and the government. A proposal to require apartment builders to set aside some space on first floors for use as nurseries merits serious consideration by the government and lawmakers. Such childcare facilities will also help raise the nation's woefully low birthrate.
<The Korea Herald on Apr. 1st edition>