Number of discouraged workers in South Korea hits all-time high in 2021

The number of discouraged workers in South Korea spiked to an all-time high in 2021 amid a weak labour market due to the prolonged pandemic.
By: | January 26, 2022

Data from Statistics Korea showed that the country had 628,000 discouraged workers in 2021, the largest tally since related data tracking began in 2014.

Discouraged workers are defined as those who are currently unemployed and have not sought to find jobs in the last four weeks due to no suitable job options or other reasons, though they are eligible for employment and are willing to work, with the experience of having looked for jobs in the past year.

The high number of discouraged workers last year has been widely attributed to the weak labour market due to the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Statistics Korea’ data also showed the number of unemployed South Koreans who sought to find jobs for six months or longer was 128,000 last year, up 8.1% year-on-year. By age group, such long-term unemployed workers in their 20s and 30s numbered 65,000, accounting for slightly more than half the total number. 

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The spike in the number of discouraged workers and long-term unemployed people came despite the country’s unemployment rate falling to 3.7% in 2021 from 4.0% in 2020, and with the number of jobless people falling by 71,000 to 1.04 million, according to Yonhap.