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Coronavirus-caused job crisis spills over to non-service sectors: report

Self-employed, young job-seekers take hardest blow from epidemic fallout

Lee Jong-kwan, researcher at Korea Development Institute, speaks Wednesday in a press briefing at Sejong Governmet Complex.(Yonhap)
Lee Jong-kwan, researcher at Korea Development Institute, speaks Wednesday in a press briefing at Sejong Governmet Complex.(Yonhap)

While the outbreak of COVID-19 initially impacted jobs in the service sector, the fallout has now spilled over to South Korea’s manufacturing and knowledge industries amid the prolonged epidemic crisis, data showed Wednesday.

Also, young workers under 40 took a heavier blow than those in their 40s and 50, while those aged 60 and older saw a rise in their employment numbers.

The number of people employed in retail, wholesale, lodging and restaurant businesses totaled 5.52 million in September, down 432,000 from a year earlier and the lowest since March 2013, according to data compiled by Statistics Korea and Korea Small Business Institute.

The reflected downfall was attributed to the high number of small-sized owner-operators who were forced to cut down on their manpower amid slashed working hours in line with social distancing rules.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy faced a second epidemic flare-up in mid-August, following a mass rally in downtown Seoul, which triggered a level 2 and level 2.5 social distancing code successively. Under enhanced quarantine regulations, restaurants and cafes had to reduce business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while high-risk businesses such as karaokes, clubs and buffet restaurants had to suspend business altogether.

Weighed down by rent fees and personnel expenses amid sluggish sales, cash-strapped employers turned to dismissing their staff. The number of owner-operators with staff dropped 159,000 on-month in September, but one-man businesses without staff climbed 81,000 during the same period, KSBI data showed.

While the service sector continues to reel under the prolonged epidemic fallout, the state-run Korea Development Institute pointed out that the job crisis is now spilling over onto the manufacturing and knowledge industries as well.

According to KDI’s job market trend report, COVID-19 is seen as reducing 826,000 jobs in September, compared to an estimate figure built on the premise that the epidemic crisis had not taken place. Of this total, service businesses accounted for 635,000, while trade industries -- manufacturing and knowledge businesses combined -- accounted for 191,000.

“COVID-19 has fundamentally cut back on demands for regional services, such as healthcare, beauty, leisure, education, and travel,” said Lee Jong-kwan, researcher in charge of the given report.

“But we should also pay attention to the job decline in the trading industries (which include both manufacturing and knowledge businesses).”

Amid the general job market slump, young workers received the heaviest blow, with some 500,000 Koreans aged 15-39 losing jobs in September. During the same period, jobs for those in their 40s and 50s decreased by 309,000, while that for those aged 60 or more climbed by 419,000.

By Bae Hyun-jung (