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New COVID-19 lockdowns to add to economic burden on S. Koreans: BOK

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The number of new coronavirus cases has surged sharply in recent days, feeding concerns about another round of lockdowns here, and the nation’s central bank said Wednesday that most South Koreans are likely to suffer economically if heavy restrictions are put in place once again.

“If lockdown and social distancing measures are strictly enforced due to the resurgence of the virus, nonessential workers without the option of remote working will be extremely vulnerable to losing their jobs,” the Bank of Korea said in its regular report on economic issues.

Nonessential workers are people employed in jobs that are not considered crucial in an emergency such as the current pandemic. Nonessential jobs account for 42 percent of the job market in Korea and the category includes many positions dealing with accommodation, food and beverages, real estate, the arts and sports.

“Nonessential workers without the option of remote work account for 35 percent of the total workforce, which means that under a strict lockdown, 1 out of 3 employees here will face difficulty in participating in normal economic activities due to reduced working hours and temporary leave,” it added.

Jobs at high risk from the pandemic also include non-remote jobs and those that require frequent face-to-face interaction. The former account for 74 percent of the job market and the latter 55 percent.

The BOK said that jobs requiring frequent face-to-face contact without the option of remote work -- leaving workers vulnerable to infection -- accounted for 46 percent of the market. Job losses in this segment would take a “long time” to recover from, the central bank noted.

Low-income people, people with low levels of education and women are more likely to hold jobs that leave them vulnerable in the pandemic.

Korea lost about 277,000 jobs in July, marking a sharp drop in the number of employed people in the country for a fifth consecutive month.

The country reported 246 more COVID-19 cases, including 235 locally acquired infections, around Tuesday at noon, raising the country’s total caseload to 15,761, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It posted a three-digit number for the fifth straight day, following 166 new infections Saturday and 103 Friday.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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