More South Koreans disheartened with job search

As the pandemic worsens an already tightening labour market, an increasing number of South Koreans have abandoned the search for jobs.
By: | December 30, 2020

The number of discouraged workers in the working-age population – those aged 15 or over – grew 97,000 or 18% to 631,000 in November 2020 from 534,000 in December 2019.  

The data counts people who had looked unsuccessfully for a job in the previous year, but not in the month immediately preceding the survey conducted by Statistics Korea. 

Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country on January 20, the number of discouraged workers has shown a general increase, though there were some ups and downs from month to month. 

Further, the number of women who gave up looking for jobs hit an all-time high of 284,000 (tied with the figure for September 2020) last month, up 54,000 compared to December 2019. 

Male discouraged workers increased by 43,000 (14.1%) to 347,000 over the same period. 

Some research analysts say that the rising number of discouraged workers cannot entirely be blamed on the pandemic. An analyst compared the latest data with the figure for April 2017, a month before the Moon Jae-in administration took office. 

Compared to April 2017, the number of people giving up their job search surged 51.4% (214,000) – 47.6% for men and 56% for women. 

READ: More unemployed and middle-aged South Koreans start small businesses

According to Statistics Korea, the tally for the de facto unemployed reached 3.9 million as of November 2020. This indicates that 13% of the economically active population, 30 million, were unemployed or underemployed.