The number of the unemployed youth (aged 20-29) has reached 348 thousand, which is 8.5 percent of the age group, according to the employment trend date released on February 2009, by the Korean National Statistical Office. To deal with this situation, President Lee Myung-bak declared job creation to be “the government’s foremost goal this year,” and among its efforts to temporarily ease the unemployment crisis, the government has included a short-term (12 months maximum) internship plan for young people in government agencies. Yet this plan, which began in January 2009, has been drawing criticism from both participants and others.
According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security (MOPAS) around 10,000 interns have been working in government agencies – 5,244 are working at the central government organizations while the rest are employed in local governments. Yet, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, in February, 130 individuals out of 1,000 chosen applicants declined internship position due the “the low income of one million won a month and impractical job tasks.”
In a survey released by Incruit (www.incruit.com) on March 19, 70.2 percent of 131 surveyed interns said their jobs were repetitive, meaningless tasks. Only 29.8 percent answered that they do the same amount of work as full-time workers.
In an online blog established by students doing the government supported internships, one intern who goes by the ID haurin 08 said he has been working as an intern at a public organization for two months, but is frustrated by the work.
“Only 25 percent of the applicants were chosen to work at the place I am currently working. At first, I was very proud of working there. But after two months of repeating simple tasks I am fed up with it and seriously considering giving up my internship.”
An intern who has been working at the Pusan City Hall’s social welfare department since January said his internship would not really help him get a full-time, permanent job. “The government supported internships are beneficial since we can gain work experience while earning a sufficient income. Yet, this internship also has its demerits in that no corporations or other institutions recognize this as a proper internship.”
“The government internship program is just a stop-gap measure,” said Woo Moon-suk, representative of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. “It has been noted many times in the past that the government’s internship program is a failed policy. The 6 to 10 month temporary jobs may lower unemployment statistics for the government, but cannot be a fundamental solution to the youth unemployment crisis. Instead of coming up with short-term irregular job positions, the government should create more regular job positions which can guarantee the stable job positions for the workers.”
Woo Suk-hoon, an author of “88 Generation” (a book about economic hardships people in their twenties will face), argues, similarly that, “if employing irregular workers such as interns sticks as a norm in society, a vicious cycle in the employment market may take place. The purpose of the internships is to encourage employment chances for young people. However, the government has the wrong idea of an internship and is misusing it.”
Yet, MOPAS has its own views concerning this problem.
“Government supported internships should be understood differently from previous internships. We do not guarantee job positions. However in order to give credit to the interns, we choose 10 percent of the interns in each institution and write them a recommendation signed by the Minister,” said one staff member.