A record 859,000 young Koreans are looking for work, up 6.8 percent compared to last year, Statistics Korea said Tuesday.
Their number is not included in the official unemployment statistics.
Until 2018, there were about 600,000 young jobseekers at any one time, but the number rose to 700,000 in 2019 and surpassed 800,000 last year.
Many more young people are preparing for civil service exams in the hope of a dull but steady job, a trend triggered by big businesses cutting down on hiring.
The proportion of young jobseekers studying for certified professions like lawyers and accountants has also increased, while those who are hoping for a job in business or teaching have dwindled.
One 22-year-old who is preparing to take a civil service exam said, “I can’t even think about applying for a job in a private company because I was so busy finishing my university studies that I had no time to pad my resume.” He added, “My friends also seem to be prioritizing stability when they look for jobs.”
Kim Kwang-suk at the Institute for Korean Economy and Industry said, “Jobseekers are classified as economically inactive, but they can be considered unemployed since they are willing to work but have been unable to find jobs. The fact that their number is increasing shows just how bad the employment situation is right now.”
Out of 1.55 million unemployed people who graduated from university or high school as of May this year, 18 percent have been unable to find work for more than three years, up 1.2 percentage points from 2020.
More young people also tend to stay longer at school or take a leave of absence as the job market is getting tougher. It took four years and 3.4 months on average for the country’s 2.85 million recent two-year college and university graduates to graduate, up from four years and three months last year. The number who said they had taken a leave of absence before graduating rose to 48.1 percent.
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