Young Koreans ditch SMEs, prefer conglomerates

Multiple job consultations are underway during a job fair at Incheon City Hall, March 26, to recruit workers for private and public businesses in Incheon. Yonhap

Young Koreans are increasingly shunning working for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) despite the falling employment rate of young people that inched down 0.3 percentage points year-on-year to 45.9 percent in March.According to the Korean Statistical Information Service data provided by Statistics Korea, the number of workers in their 20s and 30s working for SMEs last year totaled 7.81 million, or 30.9 percent of all workers hired by SMEs.”The data suggests less than one out of three SME workers is in their 30s or younger,” Statistics Korea said, noting the rate has been diminishing over the years.For instance, those in their 20s and 30s made up 47.7 percent of entire SME workforce in 2003. The rate has been falling, with the latest data marking 31.8 percent in 2021 and 31.4 percent in 2022.For 2023, those in their 60s and older made up 24 percent of SME employees, followed by those in their 50s at 23.8 percent and those in their 40s at 21.3 percent.”The older they are, the more they are likely to work for SMEs,” an official at stats agency said.It said low birthrates and an aging population are partly related to the decline in the number of younger workers in the job market, including for SMEs.

At the same time, it explained that younger workers have a stronger tendency to avoid low-paid jobs and even prefer giving up the job search if they can’t find ideal jobs.It pointed out those in their 20s and 30s accounted for 46.6 percent of all employees at conglomerates in 2023.Those in their 40s made up 27.7 percent, while those in their 50s made up 21 percent and those 60 or older accounted for 6.7 percent.”You can see that the ratio of young workers at large businesses is 1.5 times larger than at SMEs,” the official noted.Separate data by Statistics Korea showed that workers at large companies earned 5.91 million won ($4,280) on average a month in 2022, which is 2.1 times more than 2.86 million won earned by workers at SMEs.The gap in working condition is also huge between conglomerates and SMEs. A report by the labor ministry showed that only 50.8 percent of small businesses hiring from 10 to 29 workers said any of their workers can take child care leave freely. The ratio was as high as 95.1 percent for large companies hiring 300 or more workers.As a result, young Koreans often wait until they get hired by large companies instead of jumping to jobs at SMEs.According to Statistics Korea, over 600,000 people in their 20s and 30s are not working or searching for jobs without any specific reasons. They virtually gave up job searching, but they are not 메이저 categorized as unemployed in statistics.

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