The number of long-term unemployed young people has almost doubled this year. According to the Korea Employment Information Service on Sunday, 80,800 people between 15 and 29 had been without work for more than six months in August, up from 41,160 a year earlier.
The age group saw the fastest growth in long-term unemployment with 96 percent, followed by over-60s with 52 percent and 30-somethings with 38 percent.
The KEIS attributed the surge to the fact that young jobseekers often hold out for jobs with big conglomerates, which have been cutting hiring, but turn up their nose at small and medium-sized companies, which are struggling to find staff.
According to the Federation of Korean Industries, almost half of the top 500 companies cut hiring from last year. But SMEs need around 240,000 new workers.
"An increasing number of young people remain unemployed voluntarily for a long period of time in order to land a better job," a senior KEIS researcher said.
Due to the lack of quality jobs and large wage gaps, many young people remain dependent on their parents even when they find a job. In a survey of 4,290 young workers by the Korea Labor Institute on Sunday, 53.2 percent of respondents said their parents pay their bills.
A researcher with the institute said, "While prices are increasing, quality jobs are limited and thus only small number of young people can afford to live on their own."