South Koreans taking brunt of higher inflation and fewer jobs

By Park Yoon-bae Posted : February 22, 2023, 15:57 Updated : February 24, 2023, 08:36

A woman looks at groceries in a market in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, February 22. South Korean are grabbling with high consumer prices and soaring electricity, gas and heating bills. [Yonhap]

SEOUL -- South Koreans are bearing the brunt of pains arising from higher consumer prices and fewer jobs amid the economic slump, according to an analysis of official data by Rep. Kim Hoi-jae of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) on February 22.
Kim said that the so-called misery index jumped to 8.8 last month, hitting the highest since it peaked at 9.2 in July 2022. The index is calculated by adding the consumer inflation rate (5.2 percent) to the unemployment rate (3.6 percent).
The unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in January from 4.1 percent a year earlier, according to Statistics Korea. However, the figure was up from December's 3 percent and November's 2.3 percent. The number of the jobless people stood at 1.02 million last month, surpassing the 1 million mark in a year.
The country added 411,000 jobs to the economy in January, recording the lowest job growth in 22 months. The job market is forecast to become tighter as the economic slump continues for the time being.
A more serious problem is that the inflation rate has not yet shown any sign of going down. The consumer price index (CPI) surged by 1.6 percentage points to 5.2 percent in January, continuing to stay above the Bank of Korea's 2 percent inflation target for 22 months in a row.
Consumer prices seemed to stabilize lower after peaking at 6.3 percent last July. They fell to 5 percent in November and December after posting 5.7 percent in August, 5.6 percent in September and 5.7 percent in October. But the prices rebounded to 5.2 percent last month, driven by soaring utility charges.
The prices of electricity, gas and tap water surged 28.3 percent year-on-year in January, hitting the highest since 2010. The city gas price skyrocketed 36.2 percent, heating bills 34 percent, electricity charges 29.5 percent and tap water rates 4 percent.
Rep. Kim said that the government should focus on working out measures to ease the burden on the people, especially for those in the middle and low income brackets, by bringing inflation under control and creating more jobs.
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