South Korea's chief economic policymaker said Wednesday that the government will make all-out efforts to improve the country's dismal job market as a dramatic upturn in employment is unlikely in the near future.
His remarks came as the number of employed people reached 26.9 million in August, up a meager 3,000 from the same month in 2017, according to Statistics Korea.
The increase in jobs last month is the smallest since January 2010, when 10,000 jobs were cut.
The number of newly added jobs has stayed below 10,000 per month for the second straight month. The manufacturing sector shed 105,000 jobs, marking a decline for the fifth consecutive month. The retail segment also saw a reduction of 123,000 jobs in August compared with a year earlier.
"In order to increase jobs, the government will mobilize all options," Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said in an economy-related ministers meeting in Seoul. "Restructuring moves in the automaking and the shipbuilding sectors are affecting the job market. Given the overall situations, it is difficult to see an improvement in a short period."
"The minimum wage hike is one of the major reasons for the slackened job market. ... We will look at the option of adjusting the pace of wage hikes," Kim said.
He then explained that structural and economic factors can be cited for the recent slump in the job market.
The minister, however, stressed that next year's planned wage hike is irreversible.
Earlier, a state panel decided to raise the country's minimum wage for next year by 10.9 percent to 8,350 won (US$7.44) per hour after a 16.4 percent rise this year.
The minister also reaffirmed that a series of policy steps should be implemented in such a way that the market and society can adapt, signaling more flexibility toward critical issues going forward.
There has been criticism that the Moon Jae-in government's signature economic policies, such as a hike in the minimum wage, are part of the reason for the dismal job market and widening income inequality.
"The government will listen to the market's voice and will adjust the degree of policy implementation and policy priority with market adaptability taken into consideration. (Yonhap)