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Employment in South Korea
Departing from the denting aftermath of the currency crisis in 1997, when corporate bankruptcies and restructuring resulted in the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 7 percent, Korean labor market has been stabilized with the figure staying around 3 percent over the last four years.
Significant reforms to improve the flexibility of the employment market have also contributed to employment stability. Part-time and contract employment have increased while permanent/ full-time employment has decreased, weakening the strength of labor unions but increasing labor flexibility. As corporate earnings are recovering, the employment market, which suffered severe unemployment, is gradually recovering and regaining its vitality as well.
In response to the rapidly changing economic environment and labor market conditions, the govern-ment has since July 2004 been successively putting into effect the 40-hour work week to reduce the legal work hours. This move aims to create new jobs, raise labor productivity and increase general standards of living.
The government expects that the adoption of the 40-hour work week will raise the standard of living for working people, which in turn will stimulate the creation of more jobs in the service industries, thereby lowering the unemployment rate further.