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Korea’s employment performance falls short of OECD average: FKI

Labor minister pledges to speed up reform of labor market at AmCham luncheon meeting

Oct. 18, 2022 - 17:03 By Kim Yon-se
Minister of Employment and Labor Lee Jung-sik (fourth from left in front row) poses during a meeting with executives from the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea at a hotel in Seoul on Tuesday. Participants included AmCham Korea Chairman James Kim (fifth from left in front row). (Yonhap)
South Korea has been outpaced by most members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development regarding key labor-related indicators, a local business lobby found Tuesday.

According to the Federation of Korean Industries, Korea ranked 29th for its employment rate among 37 OECD members in 2021, a drastic fall from the 23rd position it had maintained between 2016 and 2000.

Though Korea saw its ranking for men’s employment rate climb from 20th in 2000 to 12th in 2016, it slid to 19th in 2021. Its ranking for women’s employment rate fell from 27th in 2000 to 31st in 2021.

The FKI raised the necessity of “fostering the service industry, which could create a great number of jobs, as well as expanding the territory of part-time jobs in a bid to elevate the employment rate.”

Korea ranked 31st in the rate of economic activities in 2021, down by two notches from 29th in 2000, while the figure rose from 64.5 percent to 69 percent over the corresponding period.

The nation saw labor productivity more than triple from $19.9 to $42.7 over the same 21-year period, with its ranking rising from 32nd to 29th. “Though there was progress in labor productivity, the ranking has been still in a low level,” it said

The FKI said it is necessary to introduce flexibility in working hours and businesses' personnel management based on employees' performances to see more hikes in productivity.

Regarding the figure that Korea’s unemployment rate fell from 4.6 percent in 2000 to 3.6 percent in 2021, the business lobby said it is different from real employment conditions.

Average annual pay also jumped from $29,505 in 2000 to $42,747 in 2021, four notches up to 20th. The drastic growth was largely due to minimum wage hikes made in recent years.

In the meantime, Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jung-suk pledged to speed up the government’s labor market reform plans at a luncheon meeting hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea on Tuesday.

The government launched in July the Future Labor Market Research Association that aims to reform the nation’s working hours and wage systems.

“The government has maintained a firm stance to improve unreasonable practices on industrial sites based on laws and principles,” the minister said, touting labor-management relations under the current Yoon Suk-yeol administration have been maintained more stable than ever.

During the event, the minister and AmCham Chairman and CEO James Kim exchanged views on diverse labor issues, including the serious accident punishment act and the 52-hour workweek system.

By Kim Yon-se and Hong Yoo 
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