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2 in 5 job seekers indebted as pandemic drags on: survey

A visitor at the Seoul Southern Job Center in Yeondeungpo-gu, western Seoul, receives an employment counseling session last month. (Yonhap)
A visitor at the Seoul Southern Job Center in Yeondeungpo-gu, western Seoul, receives an employment counseling session last month. (Yonhap)
The amount of debt held by job seekers in South Korea has surged as COVID-19 pandemic remains strong and affects employment landscape, data showed Wednesday.

According to a survey of 1,498 job seekers from local human resources service Saramin released Wednesday, 40.5 percent of respondents said they have outstanding debt to pay back. Their average amount reached 32.87 million won, up 2.68 million won from the same survey done a year earlier.

The surveyed amount for this year is up by more than 10 million won from 22.61 million won reached in 2019, which is before the virus pandemic started.

Respondents who saw their debt levels surge said COVID-19 pandemic affected their indebtedness, as the virus outbreak limited employment opportunities and closed doors for financial support in finding jobs.

Close to 65 percent of Job seekers in the survey said their chances of employment weakened as the number of positions dropped due to the pandemic, and 41.9 percent of respondents said they lost at least some portion of their income as they got fewer part-time gigs.

More than half of survey respondents said they spent the borrowed money on food, transportation and other living costs, while 30.2 percent said they spent it on paying monthly rent. Some 27.9 percent of respondents also used the money to pay for college tuition.

The survey also found that 85.1 percent of respondents expect their debt payment to be delayed if the virus situation prolongs.

These indebted job seekers estimate it will take an average of 4.7 years to pay back all of their debt. More than 13 percent of indebted job seekers anticipated it would take more than 10 years to pay back the money they borrowed.

The survey results are in line with the generally weakened employment situation in Korea with COVID-19 pandemic limiting job opportunities for those who freshly entered the market and with many corporations cutting the number of employees or even closing altogether.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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