South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul on June 12, 2017.
Moon appealed to parliament for approval of the supplementary budget for job creation, stressing the seriousness and importance of the nation’s unemployment issue. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ahn Young-joon
South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Monday urged parliament quickly to approve his $10-billion stimulus plan aimed at tackling youth unemployment, warning the issue could otherwise become a “national disaster”.
Moon, who took power in May after the ousting of impeached president Park Geun-Hye, has proposed a 11.2-trillion won ($10 billion) extra budget aimed at tackling unemployment and strengthening welfare provisions in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
The proposal, which requires parliamentary approval, aims to help create 110,000 jobs — including 71,000 in the public sector — in response to a record-high jobless rate for the under-30s.
“Unless we come up with drastic measures, the youth unemployment crisis could develop into a national disaster… creating a lost generation of jobless youth,” Moon said in a speech to lawmakers.
“Many say that today’s youth will become the first generation whose quality of life will be worse than their parents’… the top priority of the extra budget is young South Koreans,” he said.
Decades of rapid growth saw the South rise from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War to become a member of the OECD group of leading economies, but economic expansion has slowed for the past decade.
The jobless rate among those aged below 30 hit 11.2 percent in April, a record and more than double the rate for the overall working population.
Economic frustrations and inequality in wealth and opportunities were among the factors that fuelled mass protests which saw Park impeached and arrested over corruption.
Moon blamed the lack of quality jobs for rising income inequality. He urged lawmakers to help tackle the double challenge posed by rising unemployment and inequality by passing the extra budget.
“Jobs should be created both by private and public sectors, but I believe that the public sector should come forward first to help accelerate the job creation process,” he said.
The latest stimulus plan seeks to create public-sector jobs including firefighters, police and social workers, while offering more aid to women on maternity leave and opening more day care centres and nursing homes for the elderly and dementia patients.
The lack of day care centres and a male-dominated workaholic corporate culture, in which maternity leave is seen as an unaffordable luxury, are blamed for the ever-falling birthrate.
The birthrate — one of the world’s lowest — led to concerns about the burden of future welfare funding for a rapidly ageing population.